Desert Isle Keeper
The Locksmith's Daughter
I can think of few things more pleasant than whiling away a lazy summer afternoon with an engrossing historical novel, and so, when I saw that The Locksmith’s Daughter, the second novel from Australian author Karen Brooks, was available for review, I jumped at the chance to give it a try. It promised to be an exciting blend of romance and intrigue set against the backdrop of Elizabethan England, a time period I’m particularly fond of reading about. The book turned out to be everything I expected it to be and more, making it a title I’m delighted to recommend to fans of well-done historical fiction.
Mallory Bright is the only daughter of one of London’s most renowned locksmiths, and although she’s not a grand lady, she’s a well-respected woman with a moral code that was beyond reproach. She was engaged to a local man and it seemed that her life would proceed down a fairly predictable road, but when a romantic entanglement goes terribly wrong, Mallory finds herself pushed to the fringes of London’s working class residents. People she once considered her friends now turn their backs on her if they see her on the street, and her mother, never the most affectionate of women, seems unable to bear to be in the same room with her. But the most upsetting thing of all is the damage that’s been done to the close relationship Mallory once shared with her father.In fact, Mallory once dreamed of taking over her father’s business one day, but all that is impossible now. Her father seems to be a broken man, gravely disappointed by Mallory’s folly.
Mallory’s father knows there’s only one way for his daughter to regain even a semblance of a good reputation, and that involves securing her a position in a good household. To this end, he contacts Sir Francis Walsingham, the protector and spymaster for the Queen herself. Surely, such a well-connected man will be able to help Mallory out of her present difficulties. Of course, it helps that Sir Francis owes Mr. and Mrs. Bright a favor. You might be wondering why someone as influential as Sir Francis would be indebted to a locksmith and his wife, and I assure you the answers you seek are revealed later on in the story.
At first, Sir Francis doesn’t seem inclined to assist Mallory, but once her father makes him aware of her incomparable skill at picking locks, he quickly reconsiders. He needs someone with skills like hers to help uncover a Catholic plot to overthrow Queen Elizabeth. Of course, it would never do for the world to get wind of the real reason he’s hiring her, so he proposes that she pretend to be the companion of his unmarried daughter. Mallory isn’t quite sure she should accept this offer right away, but she knows she’s not likely to receive another one. Plus, she’s eager to come to the aid of Queen and country, and so she soon agrees to Sir Francis’ proposal.
What follows is an utterly engrossing story of love, betrayal, and deeply buried secrets, featuring a heroine readers are sure to embrace. I loved Mallory’s strong will, keen wit, and unwillingness to compromise on the things she knows are right. She’s far from perfect, but her flaws made her someone I could relate to, and she does experience a great deal of personal growth over the course of the novel.
The story does contain a romance, but the main focus of the plot is on Mallory’s work for Sir Francis and how the things she learns change her in unimaginable ways. The romance is sweet, but it’s important for readers to understand that it doesn’t get much in the way of page time. In some ways, it’s more like something the author is hinting at rather than coming right out and telling us about. I’d call this historical fiction with romantic elements rather than a historical romance.
It’s important for potential readers to know that The Locksmith’s Daughter does contain a fair amount of violence, some of which takes place on the page, while the rest is just alluded to. Ms. Brooks doesn’t go into great detail when describing it, but there are a few scenes that are pretty distressing to read about, and I didn’t think this review would be complete without at least a mention of this fact.
This was my first experience with Ms. Brooks’ writing, but I guarantee it won’t be my last. I admire the great amount of research that obviously went into the writing of this story, and I’m eager to see what else she’s written. Not every author of historical fiction can transport me back in time the way Ms. Brooks managed to do, and this, in my opinion, is the mark of a truly masterful writer.