The Flower Reader, by Elizabeth Loupas.
This is the story of young Marina Leslie and her efforts to fulfill the dying wish of Queen Mary of Guise. It is also the story of the politics of betrayal, the lack of voice women had in the sixteenth century, and the reality of court life and the politics of king-making.
Marina, called variously Rinette and Marionette, is a flower reader, but more than that she is a pawn in the hands of those who would determine who is to truly rule Scotland during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots. Right from the beginning her life is out of her own hands, and so this is as much a story of Marina's struggle to win back control of her own life as it is about solving the mystery of who killed her husband and determining the future rule of Scotland.
Overall, this was an intriguing, fascinating book. There were a few spots where the going was slow, but only a very few, and those spots were very brief. I ended up poring through this 400+ page book in two days, that's how interesting it was. There were definitely some real villains in this book, and a couple of real heroes, and all were skillfully drawn and fleshed out so that even where you disliked the character as a person, you still felt he or she was real and alive. That is, I've discovered, a real achievement, as so many writers leave their villains half-drawn, mistaking unfamiliarty for unsmypathy. I loved the mystery that was sometimes the center of the story and sometimes the background, and found it was well written and not overdone. The only quibble I have with the book is that sometimes the extended descriptions of the food and the clothing became tedious. Ultimately, however, this was an immensely enjoyable read, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. 4.5 out of 5.