3 out of 4 stars
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The Royal Secret is John Bentley's first historical fiction novel. It explores the life of Francis Bacon, who lived during the time of Queen Elizabeth I in the mid to late 1500's. In this novel, Mrs. G, an elderly woman living in modern day America, journeys to Europe in the fall of 2014 to chase the hidden clues about the true life of Francis a Bacon and the belief that he was the real author of the works credited to William Shakespeare. On her journey she is tempted by immortality, the very temptation that may have resulted in her close employer's death.
The book is presented with a very professional feel. It contains more than just the story, including an enlightening Prologue and Afterword. Bentley also includes a "Cast of Characters" to help identify the real and fictional characters in the book. The extent of the research that went into this book is clear throughout. Some chapters of the story jump back in time to tell of current events in the 1500's involving Francis and the Queen of England, while other facts are included more abruptly. At times I felt as if I were reading a history book and not a piece of fiction. The real history lesson occurs in the Afterword as Bentley provides detailed support for his description of events in this fictional work.
Despite the amount of effort put into organizing and preparing this work, there are a handful of typographical errors, missing punctuation, and grammatical errors that detract from the polished piece expected. In addition to these errors, overall I found the piece lacking in engaging content. At times I found myself lost in the story, other times I struggled just to keep reading. This could be from personal tastes, as I prefer fiction over history. My previous experiences with historical fiction have blended history and fiction into a captivating story. I felt that this book lacked that balance and contained too much unrelated history.
I would definitely suggest this book for fans of history, conspiracy, and cover ups. It was one of the aspects that drew me to this book to begin with. While I was disappointed with the execution, there are many merits in the historical evidence used in the book that history buffs may appreciate more.
Aside from trying to prove who Francis Bacon really was, his ties to the throne, and even to Mary Magdalene, Bentley weaves another message into his book about the quest for immortality. Francis Bacon was allegedly trying to find a way to beat death (and is argued to have succeeded). Similarly, Abe, Mrs. G's employer, was searching for a cure to disease, a way to overcome the potential epidemic the world faces as antibiotics become increasingly less effective. The reader learns that Mrs. G is determined to complete her journey, despite having a severe illness. Through her journey, the reader learns that there is more to life than being the best.
I would rate The Royal Secret by John Bentley as earning 3 out of 4 stars. With a little more action to hold the readers' attention, it could easily earn higher.
The Royal Secret
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