1587. Three years after his enforced departure to London, Hew is reconciled with King James VI and recalled to Scotland. He elopes to St Andrews with a young Englishwoman. The death of Mary, Queen of Scots has unleashed a wave of anti-English sentiment among the Scottish people, and fear and confusion in the king himself. James will grant his blessing to their controversial marriage on the condition that Hew discovers what lies behind a painting cunningly contrived to prick the young king's conscience - an anamorphic death's-head with his mother's face. Meanwhile in St Andrews, the death of a painter is troubling to Giles Locke, and the English Frances, struggling to adapt to a foreign town and culture, helps Hew find the link among the artists and intriguers of opposing courts, a quest for love - and life - requiring all his skills.
'This is a historical fiction series that crosses the gender divide, adding intrigue to the excellent sense of time and place... I defy anyone to read that last page without finding something in their eye that makes it water'* The Bookbag *
'This is a richly imagined tale, very well researched'* Historical Novel Society *
Shirley McKay was born in Tynemouth but now lives with her family in Fife. At the age of fifteen she won the Young Observer playwriting competition, her play being performed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs. She went on to study English and Linguistics at the University of St Andrews before attending Durham University for postgraduate study in Romantic and Seventeenth-Century prose. She was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger. Shirley works as a freelance proofreader.