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The Reversible Mask: An Elizabethan Spy Novel
by Loretta Goldberg

Published: 2019-05-24
Paperback : 540 pages
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Summer 1566. A glittering royal progress approaches Oxford. A golden age of prosperity, scientific advances, exploration and artistic magnificence. Elizabeth I’s Protestant government has much to celebrate.

But one young Catholic courtier isn’t cheering.

Conflicting ...

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Summer 1566. A glittering royal progress approaches Oxford. A golden age of prosperity, scientific advances, exploration and artistic magnificence. Elizabeth I’s Protestant government has much to celebrate.

But one young Catholic courtier isn’t cheering.

Conflicting passions—patriotism and religion—wage war in his heart. On this day, religion wins. Sir Edward Latham throws away his title, kin, and country to serve Catholic monarchs abroad.

But his wandering doesn’t quiet his soul, and when Europe’s religious wars threaten his beloved England and his family, patriotism prevails. Latham switches sides and becomes a double agent for Queen Elizabeth. Life turns complicated and dangerous as he balances protecting country and queen, while entreating both sides for peace.

Intrigue, lust, and war combine in this thrilling debut historical novel from Loretta Goldberg.

Author Interview

How did you first become interested in Tudor history?

As a child, I thrilled to stories about Elizabethan sea dogs like Francis Drake. I imagined time-travelling my heroes and heroines to the present day. One of my fantasies was seeing Francis Drake’s astonishment at traffic jams! He was incredulous that we had invented a metal box that could go 100 mph, didn’t foul the asphalt, and yet we hadn’t made a road system that let us move fast when we needed to!

As an adult, I became deeply moved by the dilemma faced by people whose religious and patriotic loyalties were irreconcilable. In the papers of Anthony and Francis Bacon, I read letters from a spy whose heart and life were split in this way. He inspired me to create Edward Latham and to wander through his Tudor world, experiencing exotic travel, life-threatening adventures, transient loves, a litany of small betrayals, and, finally, a longing for home.

What is it that still fascinates people about Queen Elizabeth I?

Firstly, it is her long reign—nearly 45 years—and her transformation of England. It seems as if every person at the time picked up quill and ink to write about her life and it was as much a golden age for clerks, lawyers, and diplomats as it was for poets and playwrights. Secondly, Elizabeth is full of contradictions. She left no private diaries and confided in no one, so her inner life is a mystery, with scope for subjectivity. Thirdly, on a primal level, she was an attractive woman with strong passions and libido who died a virgin queen. That’s already dramatic. She was also the daughter of Henry VIII, which helps!

Did you discover anything new in your research for this Elizabethan novel?

How about locating an unpublished primary document? My main character, Sir Edward Latham, is loosely drawn from the adventurer, Sir Anthony Standen. Relation of Sir Anthony Standen. Memories of a Turkish Voyage, collected in Constantinople in the year of our Lord God 1578 is in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. I had seen it footnoted, but not excerpted, in articles on Standen, and was curious. I have just got it fully transcribed, and it’s of mixed quality, but Standen offers startling insights, ahead of his time. Some of his attitudes even resemble those of my character Latham, which I find amazing.

Can you tell us about the next book in the series?

It picks up where The Reversible Mask leaves off. Latham returns, along with other lovable rogues and a new character. I love moments when power shifts. The action will centre on the beginning of the end of the Hanseatic League’s influence, triggered by Francis Drake capturing an entire Hansa convoy carrying war materials to Spain.

Editorial Review

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Brussels, October 1576

Brussels was blazing with autumn yellows and reds when Latham finally clattered through the white stone archway of the Hotel Ravennais to begin Mary’s suit. In addition to rooms at Coudenberg Palace, Lady Barbara Blomberg maintained a suite in the elegant Burgundian manor. Close to the palace, Hotel Ravennais housed military officers, courtiers, and patricians with business at court. Built early in the century, the hotel consisted of two red brick buildings, gardens and stables. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. With spies, betrayal is built into what they do. But many spies are idealistic, seeing themselves as risking their lives for a higher purpose. Some create an individual moral code, drawing red lines they won’t cross. Do you think Edward Latham has red lines?
2. Ottoman slave and high official, Ibrahim, has a passionate and deep relationship with Latham. Yet he refuses Latham’s offer to save his life. Why?
3. In Chapter 27, Elizabeth I and her Privy Councillors struggle over whether and/or how Mary, Queen of Scots is to be punished after being convicted of attempt to assassinate Elizabeth. How do you think Elizabeth handled the crisis? Do you think there was anything more to the conflict between Queen and Councillors than who was at the top of the power pyramid? If you were Elizabeth, what would you have done?
4. The tales of Edmund Campion and Edward Latham intersect through the first half of the novel. They’re both Catholics, but whenever they encounter each other, they are acting out their religious convictions in divergent ways. Who do you sympathize with more?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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  "No one finished this one"by calli s. (see profile) 02/24/20

We were really looking forward to reading this book that we won on a book movement giveaway.Of the eight people in our book club, no one finished this. Three of the eight people barely got past the first... (read more)

by MJ R. (see profile) 03/24/24

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