Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Lady Grace Mysteries

Go To

The Lady Grace Mysteries (also published as The Grace Mysteries) are a series of historical detective novels aimed at older children and young adults. The novels are written in the style of a journal (or 'daybook') and follow the adventures of Lady Grace Cavendish, a young maid-of-honor (similar to a lady-in-waiting) to Queen Elizabeth I, who is secretly Her Majesty's "Lady Pursuivant", solving various mysteries at court.

The books were written by Patricia Finney, Sara Volger and Jan Burchett (although they are styled as being authored by Grace Cavendish herself).

Thus far, there are twelve books in the series:

  • Assassin (2004, written by Patricia Finney)
  • Betrayal (2004, written by Patricia Finney)
  • Conspiracy (2005, written by Patricia Finney)
  • Deception (2005, written by Sara Volger and Jan Burchett)
  • Exile (2006, written by Sara Volger and Jan Burchett)
  • Feud (2006, written by Patricia Finney)
  • Gold (2006, written by Sara Volger and Jan Burchett)
  • Haunted (2006, written by Sara Volger and Jan Burchett)
  • Intrigue (2008, written by Sara Volger and Jan Burchett)
  • Jinx (2008, written by Sara Volger and Jan Burchett)
  • Keys (2009, written by Sara Volger and Jan Burchett)
  • Loot (2010, written by Sara Volger and Jan Burchett)

Contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Absence of Evidence: In Assassin, Grace notices something odd about Sir Gerald's body; he was supposedly stabbed to death but there's no blood around the wound or anywhere else even though realistically there should be quite a lot. Grace recalls her uncle once telling her that blood flows through a body like a tide (that's how the Elizabethans understood blood flow) and only stops after death. This leads Grace to realize Sir Gerald was already dead when he was stabbed.
  • The Alcoholic: Grace's uncle Dr Cavendish is a functioning alcoholic; she says she usually only ever sees him either drunk or hungover. It's strongly implied he drinks out of grief over the death of his sister-in-law (Grace's mother).
  • Arranged Marriage: Grace has a variation in Assassin. Elizabeth promised her parents that she would arrange Grace's betrothal when she turned thirteen (though she won't actually get married until she's sixteen) and Grace reluctantly accepts this, though Elizabeth does allow her to choose from one of three suitors she believes would make a good husband for Grace, so she does have some say. Due to the events of the novel, none of the suitors end up being suitable for Grace and Elizabeth decides to hold off on the betrothal, much to Grace's relief.
  • Assassination Attempt: Elizabeth survives several of these (which is Truth in Television). Sometimes, Grace discovers that murders or other crimes were actually part of an attempt to assassinate the queen.
  • Bonding over Missing Parents: Grace, Masou and Ellie all bonded over the fact they're orphans.
  • Brainy Brunette: Grace has mouse brown hair and is very intelligent, quick-thinking and observant.
  • Celibate Hero: Grace is a Downplayed example. She says she never wants to get married just like the queen and is happy to remain in Elizabeth's service for the rest of her life, though she does have a few Temporary Love Interests (nothing serious comes of them); seeing as marriage is a prerequisite for any kind of intimate relationship unless you wanted to risk a scandal, Grace's options are limited. That she's in her early teens is another factor.
  • Damsel in Distress: In Betrayal, Grace realizes that Lady Sarah has been kidnapped and taken to sea by Sir Francis Drake although it later turns out to be another captain in order to force her into marriage; she and Masou stow away on the ship to rescue Sarah and return her to court before anyone realizes she's missing.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Grace's father was killed in battle when she was a baby and her mother died after accidentally drinking poisoned wine meant for the Queen when she was twelve.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Due to being set in the late 1500s, this trope shows up quite a lot, though Grace herself tends to be more progressive by the era's standards.
    • Grace doesn't think it's weird that she's getting betrothed at thirteen and is expected to marry at sixteen.
    • Lots of people think it's odd that Queen Elizabeth is still unwed and childless by her thirties.
    • Grace has to hang out with Masou and Ellie in secret and can't be seen to be too familiar with them in public, because ladies aren't supposed to be friends with laundry maids and tumblers (especially Masou, given he's a teenage boy).
    • This is Played for Drama in Betrayal; when Grace believes that Lady Sarah has been kidnapped by Sir Francis Drake, she has to go rescue her in secret because even though Sarah was taken away against her will, her reputation would still be sullied if it got out, ruining her marriage prospects.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: Most of the novels follow this style; due to the diary format Grace provides the reader with every new clue and piece of information she's learned, we only know what Grace knows (although sometimes she may take longer to piece something together than the reader if they're savvy enough), the culprit is usually a character who is already known to Grace/the reader, and there's plenty of foreshadowing and subtle hints to the solution that can be picked up on.
  • Fiery Redhead: Elizabeth. She has bright red hair and a truly fearsome temper. Even Grace, who adores her, dreads her anger.
  • Frame-Up:
    • In Assassin, Grace believes that Lord Robert has been set up for Sir Gerald's murder and the plot revolves around her efforts to uncover the true culprit.
    • In Exile, Ellie is framed for stealing a rare jewel and Grace must prove her friend’s innocence.
  • Girliness Upgrade: Ellie receives one after becoming Grace’s tiring woman, becoming a lot more interested in fashion and cleanliness.
  • The High Queen: Played with for Elizabeth I. She has a fearsome temper and sometimes behaves a bit irrationally, but she is otherwise a competent ruler and generally a good person. We mostly see her from Grace's perspective and she has nothing but love and admiration for Elizabeth, so it's a possibly biased portrayal.
  • Historical Detective Fiction: The books revolve around Grace Cavendish, a young lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I, solving crimes and mysteries involving the royal court. Elizabeth secretly appoints Grace as her Lady Pursuivant, making her an Elizabethan equivalent of a detective. The books are set in 1569 and 1570.
  • Historical Domain Character: Several, one of the most prominent being Queen Elizabeth I. Others include Mrs Champernowne (better known as Katherine 'Kat' Ashley), William Cecil, Robert Dudley, Will Somer and Sir Francis Drake.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Grace herself is revealed to be this near the end of Assassin; her parents left her enough money and estates to keep her comfortable and make her an appealing bride, but her guardian Lord Worthy reveals he squandered it all to pay off his own debts and she's penniless. Luckily for her, Elizabeth promises she can stay at court and she will take care of her; Sir Charles also says he may be able to help recover some of her estates.
  • Interclass Friendship: Grace's best friends are Masou, a court tumbler, and Ellie, a laundry maid (who later becomes her tiring woman - essentially a personal maid who helps her dress). She dislikes that they are forced to call her "my lady" and bow and curtsey to her in public, and in private they refer to each other far more casually.
  • King Incognito: In Assassin, Grace disguises herself as a laundry maid so she can join Ellie in searching rooms for poison, as servants can more easily access different areas of the castle and no one would question a maid being in rooms, while as a lady Grace's presence would doubtless raise suspicions.
  • Lady-In-Waiting: Many of the major and supporting characters are ladies in service to Queen Elizabeth, including the main protagonist herself. To be technical Grace's title is "Maid of Honor", which in this context is a term used for a junior lady-in-waiting (she's an unmarried teenager); her position and role at court is otherwise identical.
  • Left Hanging: Loot ends with Grace realizing someone may have uncovered her secret identity as Lady Pursuivant after reading her daybook, though she doesn't know who they are or what they intend to do with the information. This was presumably intended to be followed up on in the next book, but no more books have been published since Loot.
  • Murder by Mistake:
    • Grace's mother died after drinking poisoned wine meant for Queen Elizabeth. This is part of the reason Elizabeth took in her daughter, because she considers her mother to have saved her life.
    • In Assassin, it's revealed that Sir Gerald's poisoning was this; the poison was meant for Lord Robert but Gerald drank from the cup instead.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The formal gowns worn by Queen Elizabeth and her ladies, which are often described in great detail; in Assassin when Grace is getting ready for her first formal ball, she describes not only the fancy dress and undergarments, but also the process of getting into the clothes (which takes a long time).
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Masou and Grace. They are very close friends, but there's nothing romantic between them.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Downplayed with Grace. She states that she hates the "Papist Guises", referring to the Catholic House of Guise ("papist" is a derogatory term for Catholic); however, this wasn't an uncommon view to have at the time in England unless you supported a Catholic restoration. Furthermore, it's established that Grace doesn't hate them because of their religious views but because both her parents were killed either directly or indirectly because of them (she notably doesn’t have any issues with Masou being a Muslim).
  • The Rival: Lady Sarah and Lady Jane both become rivals for each other to be regarded as the most beautiful and fashionable ladies at court, and they frequently compete for the attention of handsome and wealthy suitors.
  • Royal Favorite: Lady Grace is Queen Elizabeth I's favorite maid-of-honor and goddaughter. Elizabeth took in Grace after her mother - a lady-in-waiting the queen was fond of - died drinking poison meant for Elizabeth. She secretly appoints Grace as her private investigator ("Lady Pursuivant") after she solves a murder mystery at court. As such, she tends to allow Grace more leeway than other ladies but she does ask that Grace keep her investigations discreet and isn't best pleased if she finds out Grace has been putting herself in danger.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: It's revealed that the 'ghost' in Haunted is a living person carrying out one of these although near the end Grace thinks she sees the real ghost from a distance, though she notes he seems happy that she's unmasked the imposter.
  • Sibling Seniority Squabble: Played for Drama in Assassin. Charles and Hector were twin brothers and the eldest stood to inherit a vast fortune, but there was some confusion over who was the firstborn twin; the nurse tied a red string around the ankle of the firstborn to identify him, but the string fell off when the nurse was rescuing the babies from a fire. The nurse insisted that Charles had the string and so he was the main heir; Hector really didn't take it well, insisting that he was the firstborn and Charles had 'stolen' his rightful inheritance. This led to Hector faking his death, kidnapping Charles and taking his place in an attempt to trick wealthy young heiress Lady Grace into marrying him.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Lady Grace fits this to a T. She's a bit younger than most examples, having recently turned thirteen at the start of the series, though she's otherwise a classic example: she's a noble lady in Elizabethan England who is rather forward-thinking for her time, regarded as "hoydenish" (old-fashioned term for a tomboy), and does things like investigate murders and robberies at court, though she usually does so in a discreet and socially-acceptable manner. She has done more 'out-there' things like dress up as a boy to stow away on a ship or infiltrate a prison, though she is very secretive about this so as not to cause a scandal. She has also been known to play up the 'delicate and overly-emotional lady' stereotype for her own advantage; she herself is quite resilient and sensible.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Grace occasionally disguises herself as a boy to carry out covert activities. The first time she does so is in Betrayal, in order to stow onto a ship and find Lady Sarah, whom she has reason to believe has been kidnapped.
  • Theme Naming: Each of the books has a One-Word Title referring to a major element of the plot; the titles also go in alphabetical order starting at "A".
  • Tragic Keepsake: Grace often wears a pearl and diamond ring, which belonged to her late mother.
  • Wedding Episode: One of the major events of Gold is the wedding of Penelope Knollys, with an upper-class Elizabethan wedding being described in detail.