A Wishful-Thinking Elizabethan London

A Second Daniel, In the Den of The English Lion Volume I, by Neal Roberts, (Booktrope Editions), 364 pages, release date 28 September, 2015

Set in 1592 London, A Second Daniel straddles the line between historical fiction and historical wishful thinking. This doesn’t take away from the fun of reading the book, but it does mean that one cannot treat this as a piece of fiction revealing historical truth.

In 1558, “Noah Ames,” a young orphan and a Jew, stumbles into a chance meeting with Princess Elizabeth, soon to become Elizabeth I. She finds the boy charming and decides to pay for his education, which requires his new name and which requires carefully disguising—without denying—his Jewish heritage. Fast forward almost 35 years and Noah, now a lawyer, finds himself investigating the murder of a prominent Spanish merchant living in London. The merchant is connected to a London-based Spanish diplomat, who also happens to be a (semi)hidden Jew. And, the merchant leaves behind a beautiful widow who soon becomes Noah’s love interest.

The author makes good use of court intrigues during Elizabeth’s reign, drawing on historical sources. However, Daniel’s life as a secret Jew is much less likely. This author, like many, happily cites Elizabeth’s proclaimed desire to “not make windows into men’s souls,” taking it rather more generously than it was interpreted in Elizabeth’s London. In other words, this novel will require a willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader, but once that is granted A Second Daniel makes for fun reading.

A Second Daniel is the first volume in what is intended as a series. Volume 2, The Impress of Heaven, was released in January. If you want a bit of an Elizabethan romp and aren’t too concerned with historical accuracy, you’ll enjoy this title. If you’re less tolerant of historical revisionism, you’ll want to look for more substantial reading.

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