An exciting and romantic spy-thriller set in Elizabethan England, featuring a brave heroine who must disguise herself as a boy-or have her true identity revealed.
|File size:||436 KB|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Sarah L. Thomson is the author of Stars and Stripes: The Story of the American Flag, a Nebraska Golden Sower Award finalist; all the Wildlife Conservation Society I Can Read Books, including Amazing Tigers!, winner of an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award; and What Lincoln Said, written with "admirable simplicity" (ALA Booklist). Sarah lives in Portland, Maine.
Read an Excerpt
The Secret of the Rose
They put the heads of traitors on spikes over the gate of London Bridge.
"They boil 'em first," said a woman's voice from behind us in the jostling crowd. "And dip 'em in tar."
"Oh, aye," another voice answered her with ghoulish satisfaction. "Makes 'em last longer. They do say some of 'em have been up there ten years and more. Take care, then—"
That last part was to me, for I had stopped in the middle of the road, putting out a hand to clutch my brother by the arm. The two women pushed past, grumbling. People walked around Robin and me as we stood, looking up at the great stone gatehouse with a tower three stories tall rising over the arched entrance to the bridge. On the top of the tower, in the red-gold light just before sunset, we could see the long poles with the blackened heads. They had no faces anymore, but it was too easy to imagine the hollow eyes watching us, the empty mouths stretched open in silent warning.
"Rosalind?" Robin asked me, very quietly. "Will they do that to Father?"
"Of course not!" It was a relief to be angry, to let my anger set my feet moving again. "That's for traitors. Father's no traitor, Robin."
"Peace, Robin!" The crowd was pressing in close on either side as we squeezed underneath the gate and onto the bridge, and it would not do to talk in public of what our father had done. Or of the evening I had been picking rosemary in the garden. I'd come into the kitchen, my hands full of the small, sweet-smelling leaves, and had heard voices. Peering into the hallway, I saw my fatherstanding at the open front door. Outside, holding a lantern, was Thomas Chapman, the sheriff.
"'Tis late for a visit, Tom," my father had said mildly.
"I have no choice in the matter, Master Archer."
From where I stood, hesitating at the end of the long, dark passage, I could see other men behind the sheriff, men that I knew.
"You'll let us in, Master Archer," the sheriff said.
"Indeed," my father answered, looking out at our friends and neighbors, come to tear our lives apart. "It seems I have no choice as well."
No, it would not do to talk about it now.
I kept tight hold of the sack over my shoulder that held everything I owned in the world and took Robin by the hand. Normally this was a thing he would not allow, now that he was all of ten and disdained mothering by his older sister. But he did not let go, and swung his own sack with his other hand as we made our way across the bridge, wide as a street, with shops lining either side. The air was damp with the heat of late summer, and heavy with the stench of the River Thames below.
Apprentices were closing the stores for the night, clearing off the goods from the wooden shutters, hinged at the bottom, that could be let down into the street to form counters. But as I passed by a glove maker's, my eye lingered on a white pair sewn with pansies. In an instant a boy Robin's age, eager for one last sale, snatched the gloves up and held them out to me. "Very pretty, mistress, and soft as a kitten's fur, just feel this now, and the height of the fashion . . ."
Shaking my head, I gripped Robin's hand and walked on. It was true I had money in my purse, hanging from the girdle beneath my petticoats for safekeeping. But it was not for luxuries like new gloves. The Rosalind Archer of two weeks ago, daughter of a rich merchant, might have fancied such vanities. But the Rosalind Archer of today had different uses for her money.
There was another tall gatehouse to walk under at the far end of the bridge, and then we were in London itself.
This city, I thought, was bursting at its seams. The buildings crowded together, shoulder to shoulder: houses, taverns, inns with their bold wooden signs, fishmongers, the pavement before them slick and bright with blood and silver scales. Even the air was crammed full of noise. "Fish! Freshest fish!" bellowed the shopkeepers, and women with baskets on their arms argued shrilly over prices. Someone laughed and chattered to a companion in a language I had never heard. The breath in my nose was thick with smells—the filth of the river, horse dung in the street, meat cooking in the taverns, the sour tang of beer, and the strong, salty, rotten stink of fish.
I felt battered and shaken and breathless. My feet, of their own accord, faltered and stopped once more. How did anyone ever find their way in this maze, this din, this absurd mass of people? In my panic, all I wanted was to turn and run, back across the bridge, back down the country roads Robin and I had trudged so wearily, back to the village where I knew every house, every face, where I practically knew every sheep in the fields.
Foolish. Impossible. Oh, the village was still there, the houses and the fields and no doubt the sheep as well. But there would be no returning, either for Robin or for me. And hadn't I learned in these past weeks that the men and women I had grown up among were as much strangers to me as the people pushing past us in this unfamiliar street?
I took a breath to steady myself. We had nowhere to return to. But we did have somewhere to go. We had come to this overwhelming city for a reason—to find our father. And when we did, it would not matter that we were strangers here, that we were lost. Because when we found him, then we would be home.The Secret of the Rose. Copyright © by Sarah Thomson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When her father is imprisoned in 1592 England for being Catholic, fourteen-year-old Rosalind disguises herself as a boy and finds an ultimately dangerous job as servant to playwright Christopher Marlowe.
Appeals to girls, aged 12-16, homeschoolers. If you like "catherine called birdy" you would like this.
I love it. One of the best books I've ever read.