It was the title that drew me in. How could it not have? What ever in the world is a 'famine of ... horses?' Then, I discovered after enjoying the first pages, that there were several more books featuring Sir Robert Carey.
A Famine of Horses is the first volume of the waning days of the Virgin Queen (the historical Carey was a favored member of her court), and then in the following reign of King James. I believe the historical personage did gallop mightily to Scotland to be the first to bring the news to James's court that the Queen had died, and that he now was king of Scotland and England and Wales.
|Yes, the author is that George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman series, etc.|
The geography is mostly the infamous Borderlands, with Carlisle the governing center. Though anyone who has read George MacDonald Fraser's Steel Bonnets (1971) knows, there was little governing going on in this Wild West march region, ruled by rival warlords and rievers.* Carey initially is sent to Carlisle to take on the outlaws, and, hopefully, instill a small modicum at least, of law and order, and get rather more revenue to the Queen's treasury.
One does feel that what makes the central character of Carey such a successful one is that Carey wrote books himself, including his still highly readable Memoirs of Robert Cary, Earl of Monmouth. Various versions can be found, as well as this free to read, online version.
That Carey is almost surely the grandson of Henry VIII, therefore a cousin of Elizabeth, via Anne Bolyen's sister Mary, in many ways makes him the ideal figure to impose the Queen's will about these ungovernable sorts. Carey has the roaring temper that gets even those raging inhabitants take note and heed of both his actions and words. Yet, he is most certainly also a courtier par excellence -- which is how he maintained the Queen's good will.
The historical details in this first book in the series sometimes feel more than a little self-consciously inserted by the author, but they are interesting period details, so never mind. There is are thrills, suspense and adventure galore -- and, of course, a romance.
* It is from this region, as well as the equally wild northern Irish lands that came to the colonies and the US, the Presbyterian "Scotch-Irish," whose most famous scion was Andrew Jackson. These people settled widely in the less coveted regions of the Carolinas, Kentucky and Tennessee.