Checkmate opens as Lymond and his band of mercenaries leave England behind and travel to France to serve the French King in his battles with King Phillip. As Lymond is still set upon returning to Russia King Henri offers Lymond the annulment from Philippa that he desperately wants if he serves France for one year – if he doesn’t Henri will do all in his power to block the annulment forever. Philippa comes to France to serve as lady in waiting to the young Mary Queen of Scotts, and continues her investigation into who actually parented Lymond and Marthe, as Lymond starts his own separate inquiry into his parentage.
The story unfolds amidst the pageantry of the French Court as it prepares for the wedding of Queen Mary to the Dauphin of France, and Philippa and Lymond struggle to deny the love they have come to feel for each other. Lymond and Philippa’s adventures take them from the domicile of the deceased Dame de Doubtance, to a wild chase through the back streets of a French town (loved it!), until Philippa’s quest to obtain the proof of Lymond’s birth before it’s sold to the evil Margaret Lennox and culminates in a disastrous encounter for Philippa that tears Philippa and Lymond apart and almost destroys any chance they have for happiness together.
As with the first five books in the series, Francis Crawford is a fascinating hero, and is as suave, debonair, flawed and fascinating as only a 16th Century version of James Bond could be. This was a rock-solid finish to a fabulous series, and it was wonderful to see the return of Jerrott and Marthe, along with more of Lymond’s mother Sybilla and his brother Richard. I most especially enjoyed the mature and grown up Philippa who stole every scene and was a perfect foil for Lymond. My only complaints are the return of the French and Latin without translations as was found in the first book, and thumbs down to the publisher for not including a cast of characters as they did in the first four, this was a complex tale with many characters coming and going and that would have been greatly appreciated. Five Stars.