With its beautiful cover, In a Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener is a romantic suspense novel that will appeal to readers of several genres. First and foremost, it is a historical mystery with elements of romance between the heroine Susanna, an artist and illuminator, and the bold hero, Parker, who is a trusted member of the Tudor King Henry VIII. The two meet when Parker attends a ship that has just entered port to take possession of weapons ordered by the king. Susanna is on that same ship where she became embroiled in an intrigue surrounding a murder. A murder attempt is made on her life and because she is under the protection of the king, Parker is duty bound to protect her.
The novel moves along at a very fast pace. Heavy in dialogue and light in narrative and historical detail, it is a fast read with a very intricate plot. It will definitely keep you turning the pages if you love a good mystery. Because the plot is complex and there are numerous characters, I would have benefitted from more introspection from the main characters to support all the twists and turns that take place. Sometimes things happened to quickly for me to fully understand what had happened and I had to thumb pages backwards to re-read.
As an avid reader of historical fiction, especially women’s historical fiction, I found Susanna sometimes to be a bit too modern for a woman who lived in the Tudor era. However, it was the blossoming romance between Parker and Susanna which kept me reading. Both were based upon actual historical figures - Susanna Horenbout, a Flemish artist was commissioned by the king and John Parker, the King's Keeper of the Palace of Westminster and Yeoman of the Crossbows.
The story carried good tension throughout, although the middle slowed down a bit. But the ending was very suspenseful and satisfying. All in all, a great first effort by a new author.