100 books like Her Majesty's Spymaster

By Stephen Budiansky,

Here are 100 books that Her Majesty's Spymaster fans have personally recommended if you like Her Majesty's Spymaster. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Witchcraft Sourcebook

Jacopo della Quercia Author Of License to Quill: A Novel of Shakespeare & Marlowe

From my list on understanding the dark side of Shakespeare's world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I prefer to write historical fiction because so many fascinating stories have already happened in the past, and these tales are filled with real-life characters with rich backstories and personalities. I try to find the best historical figures and scenarios I can through exhaustive research and then stitch them together into thrillers that mesh seamlessly with the history I researched. My books are written to educate and entertain, and nothing makes me prouder than when readers follow the breadcrumb trails I leave behind for further research. I hope you enjoy the hunt!

Jacopo's book list on understanding the dark side of Shakespeare's world

Jacopo della Quercia Why did Jacopo love this book?

Of all the books I consulted while writing my own, this is the one that surprised me the most and that I most frequently revisit. It is a collection of historical documents on witchcraft in the Western world from the Roman Empire to the eighteenth century, and I cannot recommend a better book on the subject. It's fascinating, painstakingly researched, instantly accessible to any reader, and either hilarious or horrifying, depending on how you pick your poison! There is a particularly interesting document that details how one sells their soul to the Devil which I was delighted to see referenced in Robert Egger's 2015 film The VVitch. He must have either read this book or consulted that same document during his research, which was clearly to his benefit.

By Brian P. Levack (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Witchcraft Sourcebook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Witchcraft Sourcebook, now in its second edition, is a fascinating collection of documents that illustrates the development of ideas about witchcraft from ancient times to the eighteenth century. Many of the sources come from the period between 1400 and 1750, when more than 100,000 people - most of them women - were prosecuted for witchcraft in Europe and colonial America. During these years the prominent stereotype of the witch as an evil magician and servant of Satan emerged. Catholics and Protestants alike feared that the Devil and his human confederates were destroying Christian society.

Including trial records, demonological treatises…


Book cover of Christopher Marlowe: Poet & Spy

Jacopo della Quercia Author Of License to Quill: A Novel of Shakespeare & Marlowe

From my list on understanding the dark side of Shakespeare's world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I prefer to write historical fiction because so many fascinating stories have already happened in the past, and these tales are filled with real-life characters with rich backstories and personalities. I try to find the best historical figures and scenarios I can through exhaustive research and then stitch them together into thrillers that mesh seamlessly with the history I researched. My books are written to educate and entertain, and nothing makes me prouder than when readers follow the breadcrumb trails I leave behind for further research. I hope you enjoy the hunt!

Jacopo's book list on understanding the dark side of Shakespeare's world

Jacopo della Quercia Why did Jacopo love this book?

It might surprise you to see a Christopher Marlowe biography over any book on William Shakespeare in this list, but Christopher Marlowe: Poet & Spy is seriously that good. It made me fall in love with the scoundrel now credited as co-author to Shakespeare’s three Henry VI plays and who likely had a hand in several more. However, this book is also a captivating glimpse into the real-life exploits and suspicious murder of one of the greatest writers in English history. This book should have been made into several films by now. There’s just so much to like about Marlowe, his vices, and his many secrets. Please get yourself a copy and enjoy the rascal.

By Park Honan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Christopher Marlowe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Christopher Marlowe: Poet & Spy is the most thorough and detailed life of Marlowe since John Bakeless's in 1942. It has new material on Marlowe in relation to Canterbury, also on his home life, schooling, and six and a half years at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and includes fresh data on his reading, teachers, and early achievements, including a new letter with a new date for the famous 'putative portrait' of Marlowe at Cambridge.

The biography uses for the first time the Latin writings of his friend Thomas Watson to illuminate Marlowe's life in London and his career as a…


Book cover of Shakespeare the Man

Jacopo della Quercia Author Of License to Quill: A Novel of Shakespeare & Marlowe

From my list on understanding the dark side of Shakespeare's world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I prefer to write historical fiction because so many fascinating stories have already happened in the past, and these tales are filled with real-life characters with rich backstories and personalities. I try to find the best historical figures and scenarios I can through exhaustive research and then stitch them together into thrillers that mesh seamlessly with the history I researched. My books are written to educate and entertain, and nothing makes me prouder than when readers follow the breadcrumb trails I leave behind for further research. I hope you enjoy the hunt!

Jacopo's book list on understanding the dark side of Shakespeare's world

Jacopo della Quercia Why did Jacopo love this book?

Shakespeare the Man is not the best book out there on William Shakespeare. There are many others that are better researched and less opinionated. However, Rowse gave me the best impression of what Shakespeare has meant to centuries of dramatists and researchers. It was recommended to me by the late Dr. John M. Bell of NYU, who was the most knowledgeable man on Shakespeare I've ever known. I see why he recommended this. It's a short but thorough read, and very enjoyable. Just don't treat Rowse's every word as gospel. His book is about Shakespeare, the man and myth.

By A.L. Rowse,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shakespeare the Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A leading historian probes into Shakespeare's background and creative genius in an attempt to create a portrait of the Elizabethan


Book cover of De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem

Jacopo della Quercia Author Of License to Quill: A Novel of Shakespeare & Marlowe

From my list on understanding the dark side of Shakespeare's world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I prefer to write historical fiction because so many fascinating stories have already happened in the past, and these tales are filled with real-life characters with rich backstories and personalities. I try to find the best historical figures and scenarios I can through exhaustive research and then stitch them together into thrillers that mesh seamlessly with the history I researched. My books are written to educate and entertain, and nothing makes me prouder than when readers follow the breadcrumb trails I leave behind for further research. I hope you enjoy the hunt!

Jacopo's book list on understanding the dark side of Shakespeare's world

Jacopo della Quercia Why did Jacopo love this book?

De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem ["On the Fabric of the Human Body in Seven Books"] will likely catch you by surprise since, unlike most books featured on this website, this one was printed back in 1543. Fortunately, this means that anyone with a working Internet connection and web browser can access this mystifying medical atlas from the sixteenth century. Annotated editions of On the Fabric of the Human Body are available online from numerous medical colleges, so please take the time to find and appreciate this masterpiece of anatomy and artistic imagination.

By G. Hartenfels, A. Vesalius, J. Dalton

Why should I read it?

1 author picked De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book, "De humani corporis fabrica libri septem", by A. Vesalius, J. Dalton, G. Hartenfels, is a replication of a book originally published before 1568. It has been restored by human beings, page by page, so that you may enjoy it in a form as close to the original as possible.


Book cover of The Creation of the French Royal Mistress: From Agnès Sorel to Madame Du Barry

Zita Eva Rohr Author Of Yolande of Aragon (1381-1442) Family and Power: The Reverse of the Tapestry

From my list on premodern women of power and influence.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a child, I was forever drawing pictures of princesses in elaborate medieval and early modern dress. I devoured history books—especially those containing artworks that helped me visualize the people whose names rang out from their pages. Inexplicably, I was passionate about France and French language and culture from my primary school years. Then, in my early twenties, I stumbled onto Umberto Eco’s, The Name of the Rose, which appeared in English translation around 1983. History has been, and remains, my passion (as do whodunits). I have been passionately obsessed with in my research for over two decades—uncovering the truth that lies beneath the spin and the ashes.  

Zita's book list on premodern women of power and influence

Zita Eva Rohr Why did Zita love this book?

With this excellent and seamlessly co-authored study, Christine and Tracy have Adams delve into the creation of the post of the royal significant other—an often-overlooked category of premodern female power and influence. They move beyond the salacious to an intellectual understanding of the complementarity of gendered premodern political power.

By Tracy Adams, Tracy Adams, Christine Adams

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Creation of the French Royal Mistress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kings throughout medieval and early modern Europe had extraconjugal sexual partners. Only in France, however, did the royal mistress become a quasi-institutionalized political position. This study explores the emergence and development of the position of French royal mistress through detailed portraits of nine of its most significant incumbents: Agnes Sorel, Anne de Pisseleu d'Heilly, Diane de Poitiers, Gabrielle d'Estrees, Francoise Louise de La Baume Le Blanc, Francoise Athenais de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Francoise d'Aubigne, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, and Jeanne Becu.

Beginning in the fifteenth century, key structures converged to create a space at court for the royal mistress. The first was…


Book cover of Grave Mercy

Liza Street Author Of Blood Bounty

From my list on historical fantasy with a touch of romance.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an author and a lifelong lover of books, I read all genres. My favorites are set in fantastical worlds with unique settings. The mash-up of history and fantasy is endlessly compelling to me, and I always want to see a romantic subplot (or main plot!) in the books I read. I want a happily-ever-after even when the strange world and its villains are conspiring against the main characters. 

Liza's book list on historical fantasy with a touch of romance

Liza Street Why did Liza love this book?

Set in the mid-1400s in France, this series starter contains action, court intrigue, romance, and assassin nuns! I read it years ago and it remains a favorite, not only for the beautiful language, but for the strong heroine, Ismae, and her journey from following the rules and doing as she’s been told, to learning how to discern right from wrong and follow the guidance of her own moral compass. This is a book I would love to watch as a movie, not only for the action, but the costumes.

By Robin LaFevers,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Grave Mercy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
     Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high…


Book cover of Letters from Liselotte: Elizabeth-Charlotte, Princess Palatine and Duchess of Orleans

Philip Mansel Author Of King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV

From my list on French Court.

Why am I passionate about this?

The French court has fascinated me since boyhood visits to Blois and Versailles. The appeal of its unusually dramatic history is heightened by the prominence of women, by the number and brilliance of courtiers’ letters and memoirs, and by its stupendous cultural patronage: Even after writing seven books on the French court, from Louis XIV to Louis XVIII, I remain enthralled by Versailles, Fontainebleau, and Paris where, as the new science of court studies expands, there is always more to see and learn. The power and popularity of the French presidency today confirm the importance of the French monarchy, to which it owes so much, including its physical setting, the Elysée Palace.

Philip's book list on French Court

Philip Mansel Why did Philip love this book?

Born a German princess, married to Louis XIV’s gay younger brother, ‘Liselotte’, as the Duchesse d’Orleans was often known, was an outsider who also, by her rank, was an insider. She put her venom and her frustrations into her letter-writing, denouncing the French court’s morals, policies, and personnel to her German relations. Versailles made her prefer dogs to people: she called Madame de Maintenon, the king’s second wife, ‘the old whore’. Her letters make us feel we are living at Versailles, when it was at the heart of European politics and culture.

By Maria Kroll,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Letters from Liselotte as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Married in 1672, at 19, to Louis XIV's bisexual brother, the Duke of Orleans, Liselotte began her voluminous and fascinating correspondence from the Court of Versailles which she continued until her death 50 years later, making her the greatest chronicler of her day. Feared for her sharp tongue and her bluntness, Liselotte refused to be drawn into the viscious life at the Sun King's Court, of which she was outspokenly critical and her letters, collected here in this volume, describe the bawdy, spontaneous and idiosyncratic personages and life of Louis XIV's corrupt court.


Book cover of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution

Susan Broomhall Author Of The Identities of Catherine de’ Medici

From my list on women and power in history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm Professor and Director of the Gender and Women’s History Research Centre at the Australian Catholic University. I've always been interested in the power of ideologies about gender to shape people’s lives, and in the experiences of women in times past. I started off exploring these topics in early modern Europe and then looked at how women, and ideas about gender, shaped the ways European peoples engaged in the world at this period. This has helped me to see the very significant ways that the lives of women and men are always shaped by gender ideologies across the globe and across time, and the innovative ways that people respond to the challenges and opportunities that they encounter.

Susan's book list on women and power in history

Susan Broomhall Why did Susan love this book?

This was one of the first studies of Marie Antoinette that aimed to take seriously her style as a critical political tool, one that worked both for the ill-fated French queen and against her. The study of bodily adornment, clothing, and fashion choices are now a key part of how we understand gender politics and the politics of the body both in history and in our own lives. 

Importantly, Weber situates Marie Antoinette’s understanding of the importance of her fashion in the wider context of the culture of display at Versailles, where close examination of bodies in ceremonial, sartorial, and sexual labour was the norm. From caca dauphin to the Diamond Necklace Affair, Weber traces the changing dynamics of Marie Antoinette’s relationship with fashion, from her time as a trendsetter to the ways in which it became part of a compelling narrative for the queen’s downfall.

By Caroline Weber,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Queen of Fashion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year

When her carriage first crossed over from her native Austria into France, fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette was taken out, stripped naked before an entourage, and dressed in French attire to please the court of her new king. For a short while, the young girl played the part.

But by the time she took the throne, everything had changed. In Queen of Fashion, Caroline Weber tells of the radical restyling that transformed the young queen into an icon and shaped the future of the nation. With her riding gear, her white furs,…


Book cover of Queen of Ambition

Lisa E. Betz Author Of Death and a Crocodile

From my list on female sleuth mysteries from centuries past.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an engineer-turned-mystery-writer, and my taste in fiction is as unconventional as my career. I love books set in obscure periods of the past, with underdog characters who rise to the occasion through cleverness and grit. I write the kind of books I love to read, which explains why I set my novels in ancient Rome. The engineer side of my brain thrives on doing historical research while my creative side imagines quirky, imperfect characters who find unconventional ways to solve tricky mysteries. I hope you enjoy my list of clever, spunky sleuths from various periods who solve murders in unique ways. 

Lisa's book list on female sleuth mysteries from centuries past

Lisa E. Betz Why did Lisa love this book?

Who would expect a queen’s lady-in-waiting might be a spy? 

Ursula Blanchard is a genteel but penniless female trying to survive in the cut-throat world of Elizabethan court intrigue. She proves her intelligence and resourcefulness to Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, who takes her under his protective wing—a two-edged sword, since it means Ursula is often called into dangerous undercover missions. The vivid, impeccably researched backdrop of Elizabethan England adds to the drama and provides fascinating color.   

In addition to her ability to unravel complicated plots, I appreciate how Ursula often faces ethical dilemmas. In this novel, she is forced to choose between saving a friendship and protecting the queen. She also proves certain male “experts” wrong when she cracks a series of coded messages.

By Fiona Buckley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Queen of Ambition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ursula Blanchard, loyal lady of the Queen's Presence Chamber and gifted sleuth, is at home amid the glittering complexities of the royal court. Now, Ursula has a new part to play in the service of her Queen -- a role that exposes her to hidden dangers in the famed university town of Cambridge. Assigned as a harbinger for the Queen's upcoming Summer Progress to Cambridge, Ursula is placed in charge of not only Her Majesty's comfort, but also her safety. For Ursula, that means undertaking menial employment in a pie shop to investigate rumored political perils behind a swashbuckling student…


Book cover of In the Lion's Court: Power, Ambition, and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII

Natalia Richards Author Of The Falcon's Flight

From my list on Tudor that are informative and imaginative.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Natalia Richards and I have written two novels on Anne Boleyn. My passion for Tudor stuff began over 50 years ago after watching the film Anne of the Thousand Days. I’d always loved the Tudors and by the 1980’s had a go at writing a novel about her. Sadly, it descended into a bodice ripper. It was a first try though, and I still have it if ever I want a good laugh. It took me until the new millennium to start seriously writing and I’m sure there is not a single book out there that I have not read about Anne! 

Natalia's book list on Tudor that are informative and imaginative

Natalia Richards Why did Natalia love this book?

Again, I find this factual book great for reference, but it is also very enjoyable if you want to know more about the six Thomas’s at the Tudor Court: Thomas Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Howard, Thomas Wriothesley and Thomas Cranmer.

Their lives are described in parallel, with information about their families and origins, which I always find fascinating as I’m nosey. It’s certainly a good overview of what was happening at the Tudor Court.

By Derek Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Lion's Court as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


The story of Henry VIII and his six wives is a well-known example of the caprice and violence that dominated that King’s reign. Now renowned historian Derek Wilson examines a set of relationships that more vividly illustrate just how dangerous life was in the court of the Tudor lion. He tells the interlocking stories of six men—all curiously enough named Thomas—whose ambitions and principles brought them face to face with violent death, as recorded in a simple mnemonic: ‘Died, beheaded, beheaded, Self-slaughtered, burned, survived.’

In the Lion’s Court is an illuminating examination of the careers of the six Thomases---
Thomas…


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