#BlogTour : The Catherine Howard Conspiracy (The Marquess House Trilogy #1) by Alexandra Walsh #Review & #GuestPost @purplemermaid25 #TheCatherineHowardConspiracy @SapereBooks
Hello my lovely readers, I have the great pleasure to be today’s stop on this wonderful blog tour for The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh, and I have an amazing post for you all to get stuck into. Not only sharing with you my review of the fabulous book, but I also have an exclusive to Chicks, Rogues and Scandals guest post from Alexandra for you all – and it is a doozy! So, grab yourselves a cuppa and tuck in.
The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh
A timeshift thriller that will have you completely gripped! Perfect for fans of Dan Brown, Philippa Gregory, Kate Mosse and Tom Harper.
What secrets were covered up at the court of Henry VIII …?
Whitehall Palace, England, 1539
When Catherine Howard arrives at the court of King Henry VIII to be a maid of honour in the household of the new queen, Anne of Cleves, she has no idea of the fate that awaits her.
Catching the king’s fancy, she finds herself caught up in her uncle’s ambition to get a Howard heir to the throne.
Terrified by the ageing king after the fate that befell her cousin, Anne Boleyn, Catherine begins to fear for her life…
Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2018
Dr Perdita Rivers receives news of the death of her estranged grandmother, renowned Tudor historian Mary Fitzroy.
Mary inexplicably cut all contact with Perdita and her twin sister, Piper, but she has left them Marquess House, her vast estate in Pembrokeshire.
Perdita sets out to unravel their grandmother’s motives for abandoning them, and is drawn into the mystery of an ancient document in the archives of Marquess House, a collection of letters and diaries claiming the records of Catherine Howard’s execution were falsified…
What truths are hiding in Marquess House? What really happened to Catherine Howard?
And how was Perdita’s grandmother connected to it all?
THE CATHERINE HOWARD CONSPIRACY is the first book in the Marquess House trilogy, a dual timeline conspiracy thriller with an ingenious twist on a well-known period of Tudor history.
Available at Amazon
About The Author
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 story telling.
The Queen In Isolation by Alexandra Walsh
When I began the story that has become The Marquess House Trilogy, my first plan was to write it as one tale. However, as the plot grew and the sheer amount of historical detail required to make the story flow became apparent, I braced myself for a longer task and, perhaps, two books. Again though, my optimistic hopes were dashed and suddenly, it was a trilogy.
Why the surprise at this, you may ask? Well, it’s because my starting point with this series was not Catherine Howard, it was Elizabeth Tudor, my favourite historical person, and I had thought Catherine would be a minor character. Catherine Howard, however, was having none of it and quickly stepped forward from the myriad historical women wandering around my head to make it clear that book one was all about her – The Catherine Howard Conspiracy. Who was I to argue?
As she became the focus of some intense research, her story laying itself before me, my protectiveness of this much maligned young woman grew. It was not until I was immersed in her world though, that one thing struck me, something which my main protagonist, Dr Perdita Rivers, mentions: Catherine Howard is always portrayed as being alone. As I learned more about the teenage queen, I found this a problematic presentation of her.
The perpetual image of the tragic teenager is as a naïve orphan who was easily led astray by more powerful men and women preying upon her innocence. You can almost feel the moustache-twirling, Victorian-esque villain hovering just off the page waiting to lead the poor fainting damsel into disaster. The wicked harridan sizing her up as a potential meal ticket as she encouraged Catherine into lewd and boisterous behaviour with the wrong sort of men. Yet, if you look a little more closely, this myth is soon banished and a very different view of Catherine emerges.
It is true that Catherine was an orphan. Her mother, Jocasta Culpeper died in 1528 and her father, Lord Edmund Howard, 11 years later in 1539, only eight months before Catherine was summoned to court to be a Maid of Honour to Anne of Cleves. However, Catherine Howard was one of 11 children. Five of her siblings were full brothers and sisters: Henry Howard, Sir Charles Howard, Sir George Howard, Margaret Howard and Mary Howard. While five were half siblings from her mother’s, first marriage to Sir Ralph Leigh: John Leigh, Ralph Leigh, Isabel Leigh, Joyce Leigh and Margaret Leigh.
Even more surprising are her step-siblings: Edmund Howard married twice more, giving Catherine two step-mothers. His second wife was Dorothy Troyes, and after her death in 1530 he married Margaret Mundy. Both women were widows with children. Dorothy Troyes was mother to eight: Arthur, John, William, Richard, Francis, Agnes, Anne and another unnamed daughter, while Margaret had three children: Bernard, Juliana and Anna. A total of 11 step-siblings. Not quite the isolation suggested in most biographies.
The reason I’ve chosen to highlight this point is because while I was considering how best to portray Catherine, the discovery of siblings gave me a clue to her personality. To be surrounded by so many relations destroys the Victorian suggestion of the vulnerable orphan making her way in the world. If she had so many siblings, people with whom you can always be yourself (I’m one of seven, some step-siblings, some not, I understand), there is always someone to turn to in times of trouble. You may not always get on with your siblings but when times are hard, no matter how much you’ve squabbled over the last slice of cake, there is usually someone who is willing to fight your corner.
Being part of a large family also teaches you skills which would have been invaluable at the Tudor court. You learn to develop a thick skin, you understand about power plays (I refer you back to the last-slice-of-cake scenario), you learn how to, both, stand out and blend in with the crowd depending on which is going to protect you from the most trouble, you learn how to defend yourself and you know when to back down and forgive. While the broadness of the age range between the siblings suggests Catherine did not live with all the entire 22 at any one time, she would certainly have spent a portion of her childhood with a varying crowd of brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, step-brothers and step-sisters. Life was probably noisy, chaotic and fun, even with the limitations placed on women in Tudor times.
When she became Henry VIII’s fifth queen, at least two of her sisters were with her as ladies-in-waiting: Lady Isabel Baynton nee Leigh and Margaret Arundell nee Howard. One of her brother’s Charles Howard became engaged to Lady Margaret Douglas, the king’s niece. Charles was also a member of the king’s bedchamber, while another brother, George, was also at court. It is likely more of the extended Howard, Leigh, Troyes and Mundy gang were there, too. Possibly not in positions of power but enjoying the reflected glory of Catherine’s reign.
It seems unlikely that they would all have abandoned her the moment she slipped from Henry’s favour. Again, I suspect the influence of the Victorian view of events, not to mention the old-fashioned male view of how they thought women behaved towards each other. Despite what they may have assumed, women are not generally out to get each other. It is more likely her sisters would have done their best to help, even if their power was limited due to their status as women.
The joy of writing historical fiction is that I can take these facts and spin them around to create a new version of events. I can guess her reactions, I can imagine myself into Catherine’s world and try to see things from her perspective. It also helped that I have a 15-year-old niece and I imagined her reaction to Catherine’s situation – a top show of bravado as she is thrown into a situation way above her capabilities, her, perhaps, foolish behaviour a cover for her fear and doubt.
We will never know what really happened, what Catherine felt and how she managed to face her death with such courage. We can only guess from the documents that have been left behind, examine the clues and the reactions of the people around her. I hope that by putting her back into the context of her family, Catherine becomes more human again, no longer the isolated child and we must hope that when we re-imagine her personality and tell her tale, that we have done her story justice.
Oh, my this is good! What an introduction to this author, this is an amazing book that will have shackle you to your chair until the very last word, I can guarantee that this will be devoured by again and again. I absolutely loved the premise of this, I have a soft spot for time-slip stories when done properly they can change your whole view on what you love to read and this is one of the best I’ve read. Ms Walsh has a real gift as a narrator, she has meticulously entwined an out of this world great piece of fiction with a bit of history, thrilling plot line and amazing character’s who you will be rooting for from day one.
The book opens in 1539 and from that brief chapter set during the court of Henry VIII where innocent and young Catherine Howard, has just been appointed the newest maid to honour new Queen Anne of Cleves. Let me tell you that this opening is gripping, it had me hooked with the undercurrent of danger that surrounds Catherine. I won’t say too much, other than this is how you grab hold of your reader from the off.
Fast Forward to 2018 where historian archaeologist Perdita is currently working at a dig that has unearthed a part of the Armada when she get some news that changes her life forever. Her grand mother has passed away and she has left everything, her multi-billion pond estate to Perdita and her twin sister Piper. But, it’s not all there is a secret luring deep in their history one that will bring danger in to their lives if ever revealed.
Honestly, there is so much going on in this book I daren’t go into too much detail with my review, I wouldn’t wish to spoil this book and the start of this new series for others but I will say that there are aspects to it’s that just blew my mind, I was literally reading and then I’d be like “Whoah, did that really just happen?”.
There is something very magical about this book, it’s imaginative with it’s duel timeline and various inter-twining factors from past to present and that mix of fact and fiction so seamlessly and beautifully done. It’s gripping and classy!
If you want a thrilling and intriguing time-split story with the feel of Dan Brown you really want to read this one. I was completely and utterly gripped by it, I love the time-split with it’s duel storyline that were interlinked together.
Overall this is an astounding start to what I know is going to be an impressive and brilliantly addictive series, think Dan Brown and Kate Mosse and you will have an inkling of just how glorious this is. It’s stylish, smart as a whip, engaging, thrilling, atmospheric, clever, magical – I could go on. It really is a must read for any who loves their thrillers with an extra oomph!
This was a complimentary copy via the publisher in exchange for an honest review as apart of this blog tour, thank you Caoimhe!
Do have a look at the other blogs which are participating in the great blog tour.