The year is 1560. The setting is the court of Queen Elizabeth. Ursula Blanchard, an impoverished young widow newly come to court, is sent to Cumnor Place to protect the queens reputation by looking after Amy Robsart, wife of Sir Robert Dudley, courtier to the queen and prime subject of scandalous rumors swirling about the palace.When Amy is found lying with a broken neck at the bottom of the staircase in her home, many suspect foul play. The queen, in love with Dudley, had a motive. Dudley, ambitious to marry Elizabeth, certainly had reason to wish his wife dead. Indeed, in the months before her death, Amy herself believed she was being poisoned.Amy's violent end, and Ursula's own failure to prevent it, along with the brutal murder of someone dear to her, propel Ursula on a perilous quest.