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The Catherine Howard Conspiracy

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The Catherine Howard Conspiracy is told in a dual timeline that focuses on today and 1542. It was a bit hard to get use to at first, but as the plot moved along, the split worked out really well. I love the time around Henry VIII so this book was a pleasure to read. It had a lot of intrigue in the present day plot, and the fictional conspiracy plot around Henry VIII's fifth wife Catherine Howard was incredibly original. Some parts were hard to read because of the subject matter, but it fit with the time period so it wasn't thrown in for shock value and was treated respectfully by Ms. Walsh. I give this book 4.5 stars and I am really looking forward to the next book in the series.
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J'ai absolument adoré ce livre !! Il contient tout ce que j'aime : du mystère, de l'amour, l'époque Médiévale. 
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After a slow start while all the characters are introduced, this book quickly turned into a page-turner. I'm not usually a fan of the back-and-forth-through-time type books, but author Alexandra Walsh made it work!
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This read like a Dan Brown conspiracy novel, only about the Tudors, and I don't mean that in a good way. There was so much eye rolling with this I was afraid they'd get stuck that way. Granted, it was MUCH better written than anything Dan Brown pumps out, but still. What is the point of trying to convince me that Catherine Howard wasn't actually executed and that people would be upset about it if so? I just couldn't buy it. At least it was a quick read and was well written with lots of fun Tudor-era historical details. It wasn't *bad* per se. Maybe I just don't care enough about Catherine Howard to go for this. I guess better her than Anne Boleyn. If it had been written about Anne, I would have been angry.
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I picked this up because I have always enjoyed historical fiction related to Henry VIII. This book did not disappoint. I liked the family drama of the grandmother the twins don't talk to leaving them the entire house, as well as the mystery and plot surrounding Catherine Howard. It was an excellent and enjoyable book
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I really enjoyed this take on Catherine Howard's story.  She was never a Queen that I particularly enjoyed reading about but this book has changed that.  It isn't historical fiction, this story is more of an alternative history, and I loved all the twists and turns it took.  It also has a side by side story set in present day which was more of a Dan Brown style mystery.  I absolutely loved this combination of some of my favourite genres and can't wait to pick up the next in the trilogy to see where we are taken next!
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing this book for an unbiased review.

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy was more of a 3.5 stars for me. Perdita learns that her grandmother has passed away and she has inherited The Marquess House along with many of its secrets. After a non-existent relationship with her grandmother, to say that she is taken by surprise is an understatement. The premise of this book is an interesting one, what if Catherine Howard (aka the second wife that Henry VIII decided was too troublesome to keep alive) had actually survived. Parts Nancy Drew with a large dose of the DaVinci Code this is a super fun read. 

My main points of complaint are pretty tiny points. I found the jumping back and forth between time periods a little bit clunky, especially when the Ms. Walsh would repeat facts that we already knew from previous chapters. My main sticking point is purely a personal one, I love the Tudor monarchs, they are a fascinating bunch so as someone with background in the subject, I found some of the theories put forward to be quite big stretches. 

Nonetheless, if you like a good mystery with some history thrown in, I think that this is an excellent pick. I will be grabbing the next book in the series for a quick read later this summer. 

If you liked my review, please give me a follow on instagram @my_bookishthoughts
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Fascinating Mystery.
A fictional alternate story about the life and death of Catherine Howard. The book goes back and forth between the C16th and the present day, both time periods being compulsive reads. On the one hand we have Court intrigues, brutality, strong friendships and a King with violent mood swings; and on the other murder, conspiracy, suspense and the unfolding of long held secrets. A recommended read.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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I usually don’t like dual timeline stories with two different narratives but this story grabbed me and kept me interested all the way through. Very well done. Thank you publisher and netgalley for this arc in exchange of an honest review.
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Part historical fiction, part intrigue, this is a real page-turner, and those who enjoy conspiracy theories will undoubtedly love this book. The novel moves between the present day and Tudor times, offering a new take on Henry VIII’s fifth wife Catherine Howard.  Fact is merged with fiction, presenting a much more favourable portrayal of Catherine and a decidedly more negative one of Henry VIII, who is depicted as a repulsive wifebeater with no redeeming qualities. 

The parallel storyline is that of Dr Perdita Rivers, an archaeologist who inherits a large Tudor mansion in Wales following the death of her grandmother. The mystery of her mother’s death many years before interweaves with the story of Catherine Howard, creating an interesting alternation of viewpoints. There is also a twin sister with a very secondary role. One can only assume this will be developed in the forthcoming novels.

Personally, I found the parts set in the Tudor era more satisfying and the characters better developed. Although a strong, courageous woman, Perdita isn’t altogether convincing and the other present-day figures somewhat sketchy. The series of revelations in the second half of the book were perhaps a little predictable and some threads stretched my credulity a little too far, as in the case of the mermaid theme. There is a limit to suspension of disbelief. 

However, overall I really enjoyed the story and look forward to reading the next book in the trilogy.
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I was initially drawn to this book by the dual timeline storyline. While at first this story does not immediately draw you in the story slowly builds until you wonder how you missed the subtle hints. The story starts in 1542 and moves to the present following an archaeologist uncovering a mystery. I can appreciate stories about the times long past as it is a part of my profession and I can tell that this timeline was well researched. Magnificent.
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I found the premise of this book very interesting but I did not find the actual book very interesting.  The story was very far fetched  but the characters were likeable
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This was an excellent mystery novel that definitely made me stop and think, with some red herrings thrown in along the way. Absolutely loved it!
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I really enjoyed this book. I am a sucker for anything Tudor related. 

It follows Perdita and her twin sister Piper as they start to unravel their families past and history. I did find some of they writing jarring. It would just jump from own train of though to another too quickly. Some facts and some of the writing can be a bit off at times but overall, I think that it was a good book at capturing your attention and if you look at the overall story, it is very good and will keep you engaged. 

I would recommend this book for something who loves historical fiction and wants a little mystery thrown in there too!
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A new trilogy set in the mysterious Marquess House in Pembrokeshire, this is part narrated from the point of view of Perdita Rivers, a jewelry expert who inherits the house from her estranged grandmother, and partly from the point of view of Catherine Howard. Whilst I didn't always agree with the portrayal of the historical figures, for example Henry portrayed as a brutal wife beater, I appreciated that whenever the author could she used historical fact, which she explains in the footnote, and she has obviously done her research. 

Walsh believes that Catherine was misrepresented by history and was not the airheaded flirt that she has been portrayed as, and I could see her reasoning and wanted to learn more. Of particular note was the idea that she had a cordial relationship with Anne of Cleaves whom she taught to dance. Some of the conspiracy elements seemed a little far-fetched at times, but it did add to the excitement of the novel and I both enjoyed reading it and wanted to read the next in the series. Perdita is an interesting character and I'm looking forward to finding out what is happening with Kit. The Catherine Howard parts were well written from a historical perspective and from the character perspective. You really feel for her as she is forced to marry the repugnant Henry to assist her power grabbing family and it's evident that whether or not he was a wife beater, he did suffer from memory issues. This is available on Kindle Unlimited and I would recommend it for readers who enjoy conspiracy theories, alternative history and historical fiction/contemporary fiction.
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Historical fiction is always a tough read for me, and along with the rather contrived mix of faux history,  and rather  stiff contemporary story, it just didn't sit well for me.  Perfectly contrived but stuffy history,  unlikely event of secret hidden Catherine Howard ance unlikely ancestry etc,  and contrived 'Watchers',  involved and threatening British govt..nah! It  just didn't work.
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As an archivist and librarian, as well as a fan of Tudor history, I absolutely loved this book. It was well-written and well-researched, a dual achievement that made this novel a joy to read. I tore through the text in just a few days, excited to learn more. While the author is very clear in her note that she has taken liberties with the history, I found myself wondering, what has the historical record left out, and are there still conspiracies out there?
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I do enjoy stories that weave history and fiction together and in The Catherine Howard Conspiracy, Alexandra Walsh has created an intriguing premise that certainly made me stop and think. What do we really know about history, other than what we are told? The pace of truths being revealed was perfect.

Both timelines hooked me in from the beginning and had me asking plenty of questions. I enjoyed the similarities between each, the echoes, and although in present day the ultimate answer is not clear, I’m thinking I know (I’m looking forward to finding out if I’m right!).

I didn’t warm to Perdita even though I understood her emotional barriers and mistrust but I did love Kit. I have to admit that I wasn’t quite sure about him and have changed my mind a couple of times so maybe I’ll be wrong as the trilogy progresses. Talking about characters, I’m hoping we get to see more of Piper in the next story. It will be interesting to see how different Perdita and Piper are from each other.

The settings whether at the Tudor court, on progress, or at Marquess House in 2018 felt very real. And the characters … some scenes with King Henry VIII had my stomach rolling. Very visceral. Alexandra Walsh doesn’t hold back. There are a few tense moments of suspense and fear in 2018 that had my heart beating faster too.

LOVE the metaphors and symbols. 🙂 Another thing I loved was the research. I thought the discoveries were exciting.

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy was a page turner for me. Highly recommended as a thought provoking and exciting read.
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THE BEST SURPRISES ARE THE ONES YOU DON'T EXPECT!

I received an ARC of this book and, I must admit, I was really, really sceptical at the beginning. I mean, a conspiracy concerning Catherine Howard, Henry VIII's ill-fated 5th wife? Sorry, no, I don't see it. But, honestly, I didn't take me too long to be swept away and wrapped up in this greatly crafted mystery.

Blurp
When Perdita's estranged grandmother dies, a whole new world is opened up to Perdita and her twin sister, Piper. They find out that their famous historian grandmother was so much more than that - and now her legacy is passed on to them, for better or for worse. While going through her grandmother's abandoned research, Perdita begins to uncover perhaps the biggest secret in Tudor history and it is a secret others will want to keep hidden.

THE GOOD STUFF

The research: Like I said, when first I started on this book and got into the plot, I thought for sure it was going to tank - miserably and dramatically. But I was sorely mistaken, because Walsh has done superb research and manages to present her subject with such conviction that even I, a historian who has studied the Tudor queen myself, felt compelled to get in there and do my own research out of pure curiosity.

Catherine Howard: History has painted Catherine Howard as a good-time, promiscuous girl who was so illiterate, she could hardly spell her own name. This image of her has been so prevailing that few have ever - to my knowledge at least - attempted to portray her in any other light. Therefore it was so fresh, so new, to see her as a completely different young woman in this book. At first I had a hard time myself, adjusting to this new view, but once I got into it, I thought it felt plausible and nice.

Parallel timelines: This story features both a present day timeline - with Perdita - as well as a 1539-42 timeline with Catherine Howard as the MC. I am not usually a fan of parallel timelines, simply because I feel like it is usually unnecessary or opens up for the possibility of revealing things that shouldn't be revealed. While the latter did happen here, there were some things that I was able to guess before Perdita figured it out because I had read about it in Catherine's timeline earlier. But I still loved that this story had both, because else I would have missed out on the wonderful character, Catherine Howard.

THE NOT SO GOOD STUFF

The last names: Perhaps this only bothered me because I am familiar with the history leading up to the Tudor period, the Wars of the Roses, but the last names felt a tad lazy and transparent. I mean, Woodville, Rivers, Fitzroy?! Come on...

The ending?: I feel like there is a logical conclusion that this series is leading up to, which is yet to be revealed but that I figured out already on page 5. I am not even exaggerating, literally page 5... We'll see if I was right.
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Yes, I am a huge historical fiction fan, with the cherry on top being anything Tudor! So I was fairly confident I would find something in this book ... and I did. The Catherine Howard Conspiracy is first in a trilogy, ‘The Marquess House’ and combines a dual narrative with a mystery/thriller component. What we have here is a truly intriguing piece of literature that, similar to Laura Anderson’s The Boleyn Trilogy, offers a sensible spin on what could have been. Love it!

“How we view ourselves as a nation comes from the way we regard our collective history. But what if it were wrong? What if the version of history we have all been taught, that academics have studied for centuries, is in fact nothing more than a huge fabrication? That we have all been duped into believing lies, and that it’s all been done with the collusion of successive governments.”

What I found most impressive here is the extensive research Alexandra Walsh has undertaken. Although a work of fiction, it reads like an accurate recount of King Henry VIII court except a new creatively inspired twist on the well known tale of his wives. I was also impressed with how the two narratives worked so well together, creating a seamless jigsaw puzzle to be put together by the end. For history buffs, you will LOVE what Walsh has done here and how she has used historical facts to support new and exciting interpretations. You will ponder and reflect on how events may have transpired given situations and characters of Henry’s court in the 1540s. I should have probably scored this as a 4.5* given the far fetched conspiracy of the modern day and with the ending being a little fantastical, but I was prepared to suspend disbelief as it’s such a rollicking good tale!

‘Suddenly, she realised the true helplessness of her situation. Although her betrothment to the king had elevated her status at the court, to her family and, most particularly, her uncle who was the head of the Howards, she remained a puppet to be used in order to help him achieve his own plans and ambitions.’

Catherine Howard is probably the weakest and most flighty wife of the six wives, but here, Walsh gives her a real voice and takes the commonly accepted facts, twisting them in an absolute refreshing way to provide an utterly sympathetic tale of what might have been. This is not an easy path, rather, a complex and well thought out thriller produced with a plot that will keep you going right to the very end. Take your Tudor knowledge and turn it on its head! How fascinating! I can’t allude to much without giving away the turn of events, but suffice to say I fully embrace this new version of Catherine Howard and find it to be supported with some realistic fiction. 

‘What had captured her imagination was the possibility that there was a different version of events leading up to Catherine’s death. One that suggested she had not been the spoilt, promiscuous child so many biographies hypothesised but, rather like her cousin Anne Boleyn, was the innocent victim of her scheming and powerful male relatives.’

Although the first in a trilogy, this story does reach some satisfying conclusions, whilst providing me with enough incentive to want to continue the journey for the follow up. I can only congratulate the author on her creativity and unique way of weaving historical facts with well thought out fiction. The research and imagination blend perfectly for a most thrilling read. Highly recommend for historical fiction fans. 

“But if that’s the case and Catherine Howard wasn’t executed,” said Perdita, “where did she go and what happened to her?”  



This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
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