Please join me today on the Blog Tour for The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh. Published by Sapere Books it is an exciting historical novel which is inspired by the Women of the Tudor Court and is part one of The Marquess House trilogy which sounds amazing and fab for anyone enthralled by Tudor history.
I have a free extract for you to read and enjoy before you rush out and buy the book. I'm not kidding it makes me want to read on and I just long to lounge around on a sunny beach reading this.
Catherine shivered as she waited. The corridor in Whitehall Palace was a thoroughfare bustling with people, but it was draughty and the icy wind cut across it like a shining blade. She hugged her new shawl more tightly around her, glad of its warmth. As she did, she admired the soft leather gloves her uncle had given her as a gift before she left home.
“Soft gloves to protect your soft hands,” he had murmured. He had always singled her out for attention, been kinder to her than any of the other Howard girls, and he had arranged for her to be a maid to the new queen, the Lady Anne of Cleves. It was an honour but now she was here, her excitement was turning to nervousness.
She had grown up in her step-grandmother’s house a few miles away in Lambeth. A ramshackle home full of orphans like her and other members of the hugely extended Howard clan. She had innocently thought that the court of King Henry VIII would be like that, only with more jewels. Now as she watched the parade of courtiers, she realised she could not have been more wrong. People hurried busily to and fro. Yeoman guards marched past in their daunting green and white Tudor uniforms, pikes aloft, metal-heeled boots ringing with a chilling authority. The women in their elaborate dresses, the men equally as ornate: it was an endless visual feast.
Court was more intense, more splendid and more glamorous than anything she had ever imagined and she was only on the edges; a mere nobody waiting with her trunk for her elder half-sister, Lady Isabel Baynton, to collect her. As she glanced up the corridor searching for a familiar face, a tall, good-looking man dressed in a sumptuous velvet cloak caught her eye and winked. Glancing over her shoulder to see if the true recipient of his intended favour was behind her, she heard the man laugh and blushed furiously as he walked by, still chuckling.
To her relief, she saw Isabel hurrying through the courtiers. Torches guttered casting shadowy light on her as she approached. It was early afternoon but the weather was cold and stormy and the sky had barely lightened all day. Taller than Catherine, with dark hair and dark eyes, Isabel was married to Sir Edward Baynton, who was to be vice-chamberlain to the new queen.
He was an important man, having worked for each of the king’s wives — including Catherine’s cousin, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second bride. Now Edward was once again to hold this important role in the new queen’s household and his stature was reflected in Isabel’s dress, demeanour and, to Catherine’s surprise, her spectacular jewels.
“Isabel!” exclaimed Catherine, curtseying to her half-sister as etiquette required, before being swept into a warm embrace. “Your diamonds! Did Edward give them to you?”
Isabel laughed and turned her head so the magnificent diamond drops in her ears shimmered with cold fire in the winter light.
“An early Christmas gift,” she smiled. “We have a present for you to welcome you to court but we’ll give it to you when you’re settled. Is that yours?” She pointed to the trunk.
Catherine nodded. “Although, there isn’t much in it,” she admitted.
“Never mind,” said Isabel. “We’ll organise a new wardrobe for you. We must maintain the Howard family name. Cox, take my sister’s trunk to the maids’ rooms,” she said to the servant standing respectfully behind her. Then, tucking her hand under Catherine’s arm, she led her along the busy corridor. “What do you think of court?”
“I’ve been here barely half an hour but it seems, well…”
“Yes,” agreed Catherine.
“Don’t worry, my dear, we’re all here to help you; myself and Edward, your Uncle Norfolk and, of course, our brother Charles. Although, he seems rather preoccupied at the moment.”
“Is he in love again?” asked Catherine, grinning.
“Yes, but this is a little different from his usual infatuations.”
“You mean the object of his affection isn’t married?”
“She isn’t but, well, there are other complications. However, it’s never wise to discuss such things in the open court, even in jest, remember that, Kitten,” said Isabel. “The court has ears everywhere and like the smiling serpent who was the undoing of Eve, there are endless charlatans lurking in unexpected places in this merry Eden.”
Catherine nodded, but she was disappointed. She always enjoyed hearing about her brother’s latest romantic escapades. The true chivalric and charmingly penniless knight, Charles Howard was always infatuated with someone, and Catherine suspected he was more in love with the idea of romance than the most recent recipient of his amour.
As they walked, she tried to memorise the winding route, wondering if this sprawling building would ever feel familiar. Eventually, they arrived in a quieter, but even more beautifully decorated section of the palace.
“These are the queen’s new rooms,” explained Isabel. “And along here are the maids’ rooms. I’ve arranged for you to share with our cousin, Kathryn Carey. She’s an old hand and will look out for you if neither Edward nor I are available to help.”
“And Uncle Norfolk?” Catherine asked.
“He’s a very busy man but I’m sure once he knows you’re here, he’ll invite you to his rooms to keep you up-to-date with family business.”
Catherine laughed but she was secretly delighted.
“Hardly, Issy,” she said. “I’m far too lowly for such important conversations.”
“Don’t underestimate your new status, Mistress Howard,” said Isabel. “The position of maid of honour is not one given lightly and there were many noblemen fighting for places for their daughters. Enjoy your rise in status and use it wisely. You’ll need a husband soon and being at court will improve your prospects of a lucrative match.”
Are you tempted? You can order this historical thriller now from Amazon
From tales spun for her teddies when she was a child (usually about mermaids) to film scripts, plays and novels, Alexandra Walsh has always been a storyteller. Words are her world. For over 25 years, she has been a journalist writing for a wide range of publications including national newspapers and glossy magazines. She spent some years working in the British film industry, as well as in television and radio: researching, advising, occasionally presenting and always writing.
Books dominate Alexandra’s life. She reads endlessly and tends to become a bit panicky if her next three books are not lined up and waiting. Characters, places, imagery all stay with her and even now she finds it difficult to pass an old wardrobe without checking it for a door to Narnia. As for her magical letter when she was 11, she can only assume her cat caught the owl!
Alexandra’s other passion is history, particularly the untold tales of women. Whether they were queens or paupers, their voices resonate with their stories, not only about their own lives but about ours, too. The women of the Tudor court have inspired her novels. Researching and writing The Marquess House Trilogy (Book One: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy) has brought together her love of history, mysteries and storytelling.
Find out more about the Author on her website or find her on Twitter