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The Catherine Howard Conspiracy

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The "Catherine Howard Conspiracy" is basically about what would happen if history as you knew it was wrong.  This is a dual timeline book where it takes place in the Tudor era (which is my favorite) and in the present.  Dr. Perdita Rivers is notified that her grandmother, the great Tudor historian, Mary Fitzroy, has passed away and has left the grand estate, Marquess House to Perdita and her twin sister, Piper.  Perdita and Piper have not talked to Mary in several years and is shocked to hear the news.

Upon arriving to Marquess House they are swept up with the mystery of why her grandmother cut all ties to the girls and the discovery that history may be wrong about Catherine Howard, King Henry VIII's fifth wife.  As the girls unravel Mary's research Perdita realizes that not only is her life in danger but the lives of her family and the house staff.  Can Perdita solve the mystery without losing her family?

I am so looking forward to the second book to see where the author will end up taking this story.
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My thanks to NetGalley and Sapere books for a review copy of this book.

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy is the first in a trilogy, the Marquess House trilogy, and is a mystery/thriller that unfolds in two parallel timelines. After a brief prologue setting out some events in 1542 Pembrokeshire, we come to the present day where historian–archaeologist, Dr Perdita Rivers working at an undersea site where a sunken ship, possibly from the Armada, has been found is told that her estranged grandmother, an eminent historian Mary Fitzroy has died, and that her and her twin sister, Piper are left heirs to her estate. She soon discovers that her estate is not only vast including the imposing Marquess House, but also includes treasures in the form of the books and documents that Marquess House is home to including its own legacy and the results of her grandmother’s research. As she begins to look into this, she begins to uncover the secrets that Marquess House hides (which connect to Catherine Howard) as well as much that has been hidden in her and Piper’s life. In this, she is helped by her grandmother’s lawyer and friend, Alistair Mackensie and his family, particularly, his youngest son, Kit. Alongside, back in the sixteenth century, we follow Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth queen, from the time she enters the palace as maid-in-waiting to Anne of Cleeves, catches Henry’s eye, and becomes his queen. But as queen she is caught between the ageing and increasing violent Henry, who acts entirely on his whim, and her own family the Howards, particularly the Duke of Norfolk who wants his own ambitions for the Howard family realised through her. Having seen the fate that befell her cousin Anne Boleyn, Catherine must live in fear nearly every step of the way, and can rely only on a few to protect her. 

Some aspects of the book when it begins, and the comparisons with Dan Brown, kind of gave me a clue as to the direction in which the plot was headed, so when I started, my enthusiasm was kind of dampened, but as I read on and the two storylines unfolded with the present-day characters uncovering various secrets, I began to get absorbed in the plot and want to keep reading on to see what they would find next, and how they would get to the answer to the mystery. I also enjoyed the historical part of the story as it played out (though there were certain scenes, describing Henry’s brutality and depravations which were a bit too gruesome for my liking—may be a little less detail would have worked better for me here). The author has taken historical events and characters and given them her own interpretation. So, many of the characters, Catherine Howard, Lady Rochford, and Norfolk, in particular, have different personalities than one is (or at least I was) used to from other fiction (even, non-fiction) set in the era. How much of this interpretation is true (the conspiracy is fiction of course, as the author says), I can’t tell but it was certainly an interesting spin on events, and told in a fast paced, and exciting manner. The main character, Dr Perdita Rivers, I didn’t really take to so much, in the sense that I felt her a little too naïve in many situations; also I felt even when the answer to some things seemed to stare her in the face, she took a page or two longer to get to it. While this book solves part of the mystery, there is a further thread to explore which is probably where the next one will pick up, and I am excited to see how that turns out. An exciting read which I would have enjoyed far more if the secrets unveiled would have really taken me by surprise.

The book released on 28 March 2019!
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It is many years since I was an avid reader of Historical Fiction but every now and again I revisit it and in the case of The Catherine Howard Conspiracy, I was very pleased to do so.  I have often thought that she was the most unfortunate of Henry VIII’s wives; too young, a questionable upbringing and then to be the pawn of her own family  - tragic.

In Alexandra Walsh’s book we have a dual timeline: 1539 under the reign of Henry VIII and present day when we are introduced to Dr Perdita Rivers.  Perdita and her twin sister inherit Marquess House and a sizeable fortune from their grandmother, Mary Fitzroy who was a Tudor historian.  The book is structured so that we alternate between the two timelines.  

In Tudor times, we learn of Catherine Howard’s arrival to the Court as maid of honour to Anne of Cleves and Henry’s subsequent fascination with her.  A fascination that exposes Catherine to his violence, obsession and ultimately fear for her life.

Perdita’s story revolves around her grandmother’s research papers and the mystery of why she refused to be part of her granddaughters’ lives and also the secrets in Marquess House.

This is a really fascinating book, particularly in relation to what actually happened to Catherine Howard.  Oh, how I want it to be true.  Whilst reading this I was torn.  Each section was so interesting and I got totally involved, particularly involved in the Tudor time-line which was excellent.   Then when we switched to present day, I was equally involved and caught up in the mystery.  A strategy that worked well and kept me excited to continue reading.

One tiny hesitancy.  Is it a bit too good to be true that your mysterious grandmother settles an enormous fortune on you and your twin sister; oh and you are both beautiful; and there just happens to be a really nice young man on hand…?  As my friend Mary says “It matters not”.  Cannot wait for the next in the series.  

Thank you to the author, publishers and NetGalley for providing an ARC via my Kindle in return for an honest review.
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As a lover of historical fiction from authors such as Philippa Gregory & Hilary Mantel  this book attracted me from the start. I wasn't sure how I'd find the addition of a present day story line running alongside the historical part but it does work. The story line running for Catherine Howard is completely different from the what we are used to and at times it makes for traumatic reading with regards to the violence she received from Henry VIII during her marriage to him. 

The weak point of this story ( and possibly the trilogy) is that you can kind of guess where its going almost from the very beginning. The ending is also a bit chaotic as it seems the whole story unravels in the last couple of chapters which is a lot to take in.

Overall, an interesting read and I am looking forward to the forthcoming books.
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This ‘timeshift thriller’ takes place in two locations and times, with chunks of the books alternating between the two. This is usually not my favourite kind of book but this time, it completely worked for me.

WHITEHALL PALACE, ENGLAND, 1539

Half of the book takes place during the short queenship of Catherine Howard, King Henry VIII’s fifth wife. We meet Catherine as she is joining the household of Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII and the new Queen of England. After Catherine catches Henry’s eye, the king sets aside Queen Anne and marries Catherine. Young and beautiful, Catherine begins the fragile dance of keeping her violent and unstable husband happy and keeping herself, her family and her close friends safe from the king’s wrath.

Walsh has a very interesting and unique take on both Henry, Catherine and other familiar names from this particular time in history. It’s a theory that I haven’t seen in any other book before and it was a refreshing ‘What if?” scenario that was fun to consider.

PEMBROKESHIRE, WALES, 2018

The other half of the book introduces us to Dr. Perdita Rivers. Perdita and her twin sister, Piper. The twins receive news that their estranged grandmother, famed Tudor historian Mary Fitzroy has passed away. To Perdita and Piper’s surprise, Mary has left them most of her possessions, including the sprawling Marquess House, her large estate in Pembrokeshire. 

Mary had written a book about Catherine Howard, but abandoned it because of a controversial secret that is rooted in the history of Marquess House itself. Mary left clues for her granddaughters to follow and Perdita attempts to unravel the mystery. As she settles into her new life at Marquess house, Perdita starts getting the feeling that something is amiss. She notices the people around her use the word ‘safe’ a lot when referring to her or Piper – as in “Let’s get you safely inside” and “There you are, safe and sound.” It turns out, there’s a lot more to Marquess House than meets the eye.

A TIMESHIFT NOVEL THAT WORKS

As I stated at the beginning of this review, I'm not a fan of timeshift stories. I prefer settling into one time period and sticking too it. However, the author does a superb job with the pacing of the book. I felt like I was reading several short stories one after another. I think it helped that each time period lasted several chapters at a time, allowing enough time for me to adjust, settle in and enjoy the plot before moving on. Instead of feeling like I was being torn from the past to the future and back, I was eager to return to a familiar set of characters and see what they were up to.

SPEAKING OF THOSE CHARACTERS

I’ve read A LOT of historical fiction based on the Tudors, and Catherine Howard has almost always come across as a young, flighty girl. This book turns a lot of those Tudor characters into something completely opposite to what I’m used to and it was really, REALLY interesting. I can’t say more without giving the mystery away, but let’s just say, this new version of Catherine Howard and her supporting characters was a lot of fun.

As for the ‘present-day’ characters – I just want to be friends with ALL of them. Perdita is exactly the type of person I would get along with – an introvert who loves reading, research and history. We only get to know her twin, Piper, as a secondary character, but I’m hoping that changes in the next book. We briefly meet most of the Marquess House staff but get enough to sense that they are very tight knit and loyal, a feeling that they extend to the twins almost immediately.

I’m also halfway in love with Kit Mackensie. Kit and his siblings, Stuart and Megan, grew up in Marquess House, since their father was Mary’s confidant and solicitor. In fact, the entire Mackensie family are incredibly warm and friendly. They welcome Perdita and Piper into their midst and Kit and Perdita work together to try and solve the Marquess House mystery.

JUST THE BEGINNING

I requested this book on NetGalley based on the title and description (like I said, I’ll read almost anything that has to do with the Tudors!) and I am so happy that I did. This book was outstanding.

Although the answer to part of the mystery is revealed by the end of The Catherine Howard Mystery, the story very deftly sets up the sequel and I can’t wait for it to come out. I have some theories on where the entire storyline is headed, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see if I’m correct!

*** Thank you to the publisher, Sapere Books, and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. ***
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This book is a roller coaster ride of fun and intrigue.  I know it's a work of fiction, but I'm rethinking everything I think I know about Catherine Howard.  I was a bit put off by the constant change in the time frame, past to present...but a wonderful book worth reading.  I anxiously await the next installment in the series.  Alexandra Walsh has created some wonderful characters, in addition to the actual historical characters.  This is definitely a book worth reading.
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My thanks to Sapere Books for an eARC via NetGalley of this intriguing historical mystery in exchange for an honest review. It is Alexandra Walsh’s debut novel and the first in her Marquess House Trilogy. 

Dr. Perdita Rivers is working on a archeological research project in Pembrokeshire when news of her grandmother’s death reaches her. Perdita and twin sister, Piper, have had no contact with Mary Fitzroy following the death of their mother when they were children. Mary had been a noted historian and apparently very wealthy. To their surprise the sisters are named as her sole heirs. 

Perdita moves into Marquess House, Mary’s stately home with a long history including links with Anne Boleyn. Looking into Mary’s research she discovers an unfinished manuscript on the subject of Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth queen and uncovers a mystery.

The narrative is split between Perdita’s experiences in 2018 and Catherine’s story from 1539 when she joined the household of the new queen, Anne of Cleves. Like her cousin, Anne Boleyn, Catherine is quickly caught up in her family’s machinations.

I am so glad that I requested this as it combined my love of well-researched historical mysteries, of well thought out conspiracy thrillers, and of novels with dual timelines. I was completely hooked from the beginning and could hardly put it down.

With conspiracy thrillers there is always a need to suspend disbelief, which I had no problem doing here. In her Author’s Note Walsh makes it clear that her ‘what if?’ conspiracy is framed as far as possible with verifiable historical fact. 

As this is the first in a trilogy it’s hard to judge in advance how it will progress. However, based on this first volume I feel quite confident and I am extremely excited for the next book in the series coming out later this year and further adventures with the sisters and their allies and adversaries.
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Sometimes I like to sit back and wonder "What if?" I was just in the mood to do that, and Alexandra Walsh's The Catherine Howard Conspiracy was just the book satisfy my craving. 

The tale is told in two timelines. One in 2018 in the fabulous Marquess House in Pembrokeshire, Wales; the second beginning in 1539 when Catherine Howard arrives at Henry VIII's court to be maid of honor in the household of his new bride, Anne of Cleves.

For the first half of the book, the Catherine Howard timeline was much the better. I have read quite a bit of Tudor history, and at first my reaction to Walsh's portrayal of Howard was, "Wait a second... I've been told that she was a flibbertigibbet whose only interests were flirting, gossiping, dancing, and the latest fashions?" Then I remembered two things. The history of that period was written by men-- mostly in the employ of the king-- so who knows what Catherine was really like? And... this is fiction. Let's see where the story goes.

I loved where the story went. Total willing suspension of disbelief here. The portrayal of Henry VIII fit my personal opinion of the man, the political machinations were pitch perfect, and Walsh had me living with these characters in the 1540s.

Not so much in 2018 with Dr. Perdita Rivers. Since childhood, she's been estranged from her Tudor historian grandmother, Mary Fitzroy, and when Fitzroy dies and leaves her (and her twin sister Piper) her entire estate, Perdita spends way too much time moaning about poor little me, my grandmother never treated me right. Evidently, I'm more mercenary; I would've cut the old girl some slack because of the centuries-old Marquess House and its fabulous research center filled with ancient documents and other treasures.

The first half of The Catherine Howard Conspiracy was extremely slow. It took too long to set the stage-- especially with Perdita and Piper, whose nicknames (Perds and Pipes)-- were over-used and drove me batty. Halfway in, characters stopped calling the two by their nicknames, and they put their shoulders to the wheel to begin piecing together the mystery of Catherine Howard. That is when the story really took flight. 

I may have had a couple of other minor concerns, i.e. the Duke of Norfolk's behavior at the end of the book and the feeling that MI One seemed a bit far-fetched, but having read the entire story, I now have an idea of where book two in this trilogy is going... and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

Love to read tales of Tudor England? I think there's an excellent chance you'll really enjoy Alexandra Walsh's The Catherine Howard Conspiracy.
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Twist on Tudor history.  The book occurs in Tudor times and Modern times.  Lots of twists and turns as Perdity and Piper discover secrets about their grandmother, father and mother.  Life is not what it seems.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can't wait for the sequel.

I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the publisher and am voluntarily reviewing it.
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I’m afraid I just couldn’t suspend belief for long enough to enjoy this. I appreciate the new angle the author was taking but it just wasn’t for me. Sorry.
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As much as I know this story is fabricated, it definitely kept my interest and showed a different alternative for Catherine Howard. I really enjoyed it and enjoyed the authors storytelling. I can’t wait to read more!
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I loved this book. It is a really strong start to a series. Catherine Howard had such a short part in history and a lot has been written about her. I liked the ideas in this book as to what happened to her and those around her. There have been a lot of books written about Henry VIII's reign. This one is the first one I have read that flicks back and forward in time between Catherine Howard's reign as Queen and present time. The story is gripping and really well put together. I am looking forward to reading the next book. 

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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England 1539

When Catherine Howard arrives at the court of Henry VIII it is to be maid of honour to the new Queen, Anne of Cleves yet she had no idea where this path would take her.

When Catherine becomes the King's new fancy she finds herself caught in the politicking of her Uncle, the Duke of Norfolk and his ambition to put a Howard heir on the throne.

Terrified by the health of the King affecting his behaviour, the fate of her cousin's Anne and George are forever on her mind and stoke fears for her own safety.

Wales 2018

Dr Perdita Rivers is the estranged grand daughter of Mary Fitzroy a famed Tudor historian.  After Mary's inexplicable loss of contact with both herself and her twin sibling, Piper.  Mary's unexpected death and the girls sudden inheritence of Marquess House a beautiful tudor estate on the Pembrokeshire coast, Perdita begins to learn and unravel the reasons for her grandmother's absence as she settles into her new stately home.

While looking further into her grandmothers work Perdita finds ancient documents in the archives of letters and diaries claiming that Catherine Howards execution wasn't as it seemed.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Sapere Books for the opportunity to read this debut novel by Alexandra Walsh, this is the first instalment of a trilogy.  This novel is a dual time line plot based on a historical conspiracy thriller with a twist on a well known period of Tudor history.


The beginning of this book was a slow burner for me, it took a while for me to like the character of Perdita as she initially came over very one dimensional and upon her realisation of her inheritance at times acted like a spoilt child whose newly found priveledge initially put me on the back foot.  However, I have to be honest as an avid reader on books based in the tudor perior it was in fact the intrigue of Catherine's story which drew me deeper into reading this book.  

One tudor character I developed a fondness for was Jane Boleyn (Viscountess Rochford nee Parker).  Jane was the wife of the ill fated brother of Anne Boleyn, George but was well used to the politics of court commencing her time there with Catherine of Aragon's household.

Jane is clearly a strong women able to survive throughout the early days of Henry's court, her tenacity is clearly portrayed in this book when she is returned to the court of Jane Seymour and subsequently the next Queen, Anne of Cleves before standing beside Catherine Howard.

This book is written in such a way that at times you do feel back in that fateful period in history.  Although the plot is based in fact it is a work of fiction and I sometimes had to remind myself of that as I was pulled into the intrigue.

I do feel this book had a similar style of writing in the historical timeline to that of Alison Weir and Phillipa Gregory.  The more modern timeline had a feel of Dan Brown to it however, I would say at times the plot felt too slow and it's conclusion almost felt rushed in it's style of writing.

Despite all my views I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and felt drawn back to it's pages time and again.  I look forward to seeing where the story will go in the second book when it is published.
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Well done, Alexandra Walsh ... historical fiction of the highest order!

This book (part one of a trilogy), is another 'take' on Catherine Howard who I have always thought was a young flighty girl who Henry VIII used for a short time and then was dispatched to the executioner's block. Or was she?

This book tries brilliantly to debunk this theory using the dual timeline of Queen Catherine's reign (1539 to 1542 ish), and Dr Perdita Rivers who inherits a huge mansion in Pembrokeshire , Marquess House in 2018. The connection being in the archives of this house left to Perdita and her twin sister Piper. This estate was passed to these girls by their grandmother Mary Fitzroy. So, just by using these well known Tudor surnames the reader is drawn into Catherine's life at court. We have the aged, sick King, the manipulative Duke of Norfolk and the jealous  Seymour family - all of which Ms Walsh describes excellently.

By getting to the possible truth of Catherine's demise, Perdita innocently puts herself in danger, and here I am going to say no more in order to not spoil the 2018 events, apart from saying it is well worth reading.

For Tudor history I have usually devoured the books by Alison Weir, but here we have Ms Walsh - with a well written, detailed and sometimes exciting book - entering the Tudor history writers domain with first class honours.

Thanks to Sapere and Net Galley for the chance to read and review this book.
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First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Alexandra Walsh, and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Alexandra Walsh storms onto the scene with this intriguing piece of historical fiction that opens new questions about the Tudors and Catherine Howard. While attending a dig, archeologist Dr. Perdita Rivers is alerted to some startling news; her estranged grandmother, popular Tudor historian Mary Fitzroy, has passed away. Even more alarming is the fact that Perdita and her sister, Piper, are now the rightful owners of Marquess House, a massive estate that Perdita never knew was part of the family. Surveying her new property, Perdita begins sifting through everything her grandmother left behind, including massive amounts of research relating to the Tudors. The deeper Perdita delves, the more she discovers. Of particular interest is an unpublished work on Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife. The story flashes back to the time of Catherine’s life, exploring her time as a lady at Court. Catherine surrounded herself by Anne of Cleves, the foreign princess sent to marry Henry VIII. Young and quite beautiful, Catherine catches the eye of the king, especially when his hastily arranged marriage goes stale soon after it is solidified. However, Henry VIII is anything but a compassionate lover, using violence and his title to demand submission, both in and out of bed. Once Henry VIII is in search of a new wife, Catherine is the obvious choice. She soon fears for her life when the violence escalates as she is not quick to produce an heir. As Perdita reads more, she begins to piece together some highly controversial information. Could it be that Catherine Howard was never executed? If so, who stood in her place and what happened to this young woman? While Perdita seeks to uncover more, additional mysteries behind her grandmother’s death and a group that has been following her are revealed. This further explains the estrangement between Mary Fitzroy and her granddaughters for a quarter of a century. Filled with adventure and historical revelations, Alexandra Walsh pulls the reader into the middle of this opening novel in an expected trilogy. Recommended for those who love historical mysteries and fiction, as well as readers with an interest in all things Tudor.

I eagerly accepted the chance to read Walsh’s debut novel, as it provided me the opportunity to explore some Tudor history intertwined with a great historical mystery. Walsh develops the first of this trilogy with an interesting premise, whose importance becomes more apparent the more the story develops. Dr. Perdita Rivers proves to be a wonderful character who comes into her own throughout this piece. An archeologist by training, Rivers is well-versed with historical discoveries, though is quite surprised when she uncovers much of the research her grandmother left her. The reader learns a little more about the estrangement period, as well as Rivers’ own backstory and some development, both familial and personal, throughout the piece. Walsh lays the groundwork for some interesting future adventures, both as they relate to the Tudors and life within the Marquess House. Others help to flesh-out the story effectively, none more than Catherine Howard herself. Long deemed flighty and quite promiscuous—like her cousin, Anne Boleyn—Catherine Howard’s brief marriage and eventual execution seem a foregone conclusion. However, Walsh injects some interesting twists into the story, while building a wonderful narrative to offer new and potentially insightful aspects to Tudor history. The story worked quite well and serves both to entertain as well as educate the reader. There is much development of a mystery, both in Tudor times and during the present period. Readers are left with many questions, sure to help lure them into wanting to find the next books in the trilogy. Walsh has definitely offered much on which the reader can posit, including secret societies created to protect and veil those historical anomalies that have not made it into tomes. I am eager to see what Walsh has coming down the pipeline and will keep my eyes peeled for the second book when it has been published.

Kudos, Madam Walsh, for a wonderful opening novel in this series. You have me curious and hoping the intensity stays high throughout the trilogy.
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A brilliant novel with two parallel stories - one set in 1538 and the other in 2018. In the past we learn of how young Catherine Howard a teenager Maid if Honour joins the Court to support the new Queen, Catherine Howard. In the present, Dr Perdita Rivers is working on an archeological dig on the wreck of a Tudor ship and learns that her estranged grandmother, renowned Tudorhistorian, Mary Fitzroy has died unexpectedly and left Perdita and her twin Piper her massive estate with Marquess House at its centre. 
Catherine Howard is as much a pawn in her Uncle, Lord Howard’s game to have a Howard heir on the throne. In the background we learn of how her cousin Anne Boleyn was also manipulated by her uncle to be Henry’s second Queen which lead eventually to her execution 
after a trial in which Howard persecuted her. 
Likewise all is not as it seems to Perdita that the estrangement from Piper and her Grandmother was not as they believed. Her mother’s death seems linked to a mysterious branch of the British Secret Service  who seem to threaten both sisters and there is more to the documents that Mary and the family who protect her that may suggest that what we believe about Catherine Howard is completely false.
A fantastic read - cannot wait for next two volumes of the trilogy.
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In this first volume in what is announced as a trilogy, we meet Perdita when she discovers that with her twin she inherits all of their estranged grandmother’s possessions. She’ll go from one surprise to another while trying to understand this estrangement and discovering the historical researches the deceased was doing.

In this novel we follow two stories in parallel: on one side Perdita’s story in the present, on the other the story of Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife. As there are several chapters in a row for each story the back-and-forth aren’t confusing or annoying and don’t disturb the reader in following both stories.

In the present we’re mostly focused on Perdita (I can’t with this name, sorry for the author but for me Perdita is the female Dalmatian dog in Disney lol). When she discovers her grandmother has died and left them her possessions, she’s disappointed because she always hoped they could reconcile someday, and extremely surprised by the amount of the inheritance (and with good reasons!). I was frequently as annoyed as she is by the reactions of her grandmother’s lawyer/ head of security/ loyal friend who regularly prefers to keep quiet about certain things when she asks questions about her grandmother instead of frankly saying what he knows – especially as some events force him most of the time to reveal these things sometimes later anyway. She’s fascinated by the historical researches her grandmother was doing about Catherine Howard and by the theory that the queen had in reality survived the fate written in History books. Perdita decides to carry on the researches with the help of Kit, the lawyer’s son. We see them slowly get closer through the novel and I guess at some point in the trilogy they’ll end up being in couple. I liked how the discoveries and deductions come one after the other to lead to the final revelation. However there are at time some lengthy passages and easy options that can make one roll his eyes.

In the past we follow a Catherine Howard totally different from what History tells us. Far from the unfaithful featherbrain who died on the chopping block, the author depicts a nice, considerate, intelligent and very young woman terrified by the aging and bad-tempered husband she was forced to marry. We see in her relatives all the names we can see on the Internet pages dedicated to her life, but not necessarily with the same part. Henry VIII’s behavior shown in this novel could match without much stretch of imagination what we know of the king’s state of health at this time, so what happens to Catherine seems unexpectedly likely too. The way the author supports her tale with discoveries made by Perdita in the present lends weight to this theory. I came to care for the Catherine Howard shown here and I couldn’t wait to know what would happen to her. I wasn’t disappointed.

The side that seemed a bit too much IMO is the discovery of a secret branch of the British Secret Services (that’s a lot of secret lol) charged with removing everything that threatens History as it’s been told. The resources they possess and the extreme lengths to which they are ready to go to be sure nobody reveals differences seem a bit excessive, but it brings some suspense to the novel.

I’d say this novel could in a sense be read alone as Catherine’s story is ended at the end of the book, but not Perdita’s of course. In any way I really liked this story and I can’t wait to read the next.
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A really interesting take on a well known period in English history. This is a fictional alternative version of the rise and fall of Catherine Howard. It paints the King as a very dark character and emphasises his power and that of those courtiers currently in favour.  The story was told in 2 parts switching between research taking place in 2018 and the Tudor years.
An original theme well worth a read!
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There’s two things I need to say about this book:

1. I started it Sunday morning and was then glued to the pages for most of the day until I finished shortly after midnight
2. While being glued to the pages, I also rolled my eyes a lot.

Because this book is essentially The Da Vinci Code with the Tudors. Admittedly, with less awkward prose and without Browns weird well-meaning but utterly condescending sexism. But it’s still a book about an awesome academic who discovers that the story we’ve been told about a historic figure is wrong and then she is hunted by a shady organisation who wants to stop her from making that knowledge public. Only it’s not about Jesus but Catherine Howard.

And that’s where things fall apart somewhat because while an organisation of Vatican assassins who hunt people that found out that Jesus was actually married and had children is stupid, it also has some internal logic. Jesus is pretty important for a lot of people. And so is the image of him as an unmarried man. If we are in parallel conspiracy universe, I can buy that people would kill to keep that a secret.

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy posits that the fact that she wasn’t executed has to be kept a secret because…people would get upset if the Divorced, Beheaded and Died. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived-rhyme didn’t work anymore? The argument they make is that history is important to people and (national) identity and finding out that history isn’t what everybody thought it is would cause an uproar. And the example they give is Richard III and how everybody thought he was an evil hunchback but then they found his bones, discovered his spine wasn’t deformed and then everybody also went back on the evil bit and accepted that Richard was actually one of the good guys. Which is not what happened. As this clip from a kids TV-show that was broadcast about a year before they found Richard’s bones, shows.

Arguments about how many of the bad stories about Richard are true and how many are made up by people who were paid by the Tudors has been discussed by historians for a long time. Granted, finding the bones has probably brought that to the attention of a lot of people whose entire knowledge about him had come from the Shakespeare play but I seriously doubt that these people were so upset by that revelation that they then voted for Brexit. Or whatever it was the book was trying to convince me off.

There are so many historical figures and events that historians argue about. Because there is no such thing as an unbiased source. We get descriptions from people who have their own reasons for making someone look good or bad, from people who couldn’t believe that women might have an agency of their own or that gay people existed. Or perhaps they even tried to be neutral but wrote about someone who deliberately tried to appear different from how they actually were. And the further back you go, the harder it gets to find a person where historians agree on all aspects of his or her life. Of course, some of these controversies are more well known than others but building a whole book on History is a fixed thing and must never be changed is so ridiculous that I cannot buy at all, not even if it’s just the premise for a light entertainment read.

And that’s a shame because, I really enjoyed the book at first, since I did not look very closely at the cover and it wasn’t immediately obvious that this was a “gripping conspiracy thriller”. There was just Catherine’s story – starting with her time at Henry’s court – and Perdita’s story – who inherits Marquess house and finds papers there that make her doubt the official story. Admittedly, Catherine’s story was a bit too much. Too much making sure the reader really likes her. She’s not the semi-illiterate woman who’s stupid enough to screw around while being married to a guy who already beheaded one wife for infidelity. Instead, she’s incredibly clever, sends complex coded messages, makes sure that she’s not even alone with her own brother once it becomes clear that Henry intends to marry her and is so incredibly kind-hearted that she’s even trying to help the people who’ve been plotting against her. And to make sure we really like her and feel sorry for her, there are several quite graphic scenes where Henry rapes her…have I mentioned that she’s 15/16 at the time of the story?

Now I would like to throw a controversial opinion out there: it doesn’t matter if Catherine was stupid, couldn’t write her own name and screwed the entire court. She was also a teenager who had no choice but to marry Henry. She did not deserve to be murdered. There’s no need to portray her as an angelic creature who saves puppies in her free time to convince me of that.

On the other hand, life is depressing and especially female characters are rarely allowed to be sympathetic and unlikeable and who am I to judge the author for telling a story with more mass appeal?

So, if this had just been a story of angelic Catherine and Perdita who goes on a treasure hunt to discover the truth and the conflict and tension had come from something that wasn’t her being hunted by secret government agencies, I’d have enjoyed this book. (Though I would have still side-eyed all the on-page rape of a 15-year-old very hard). But then the story turned into…well, The Tudor Code and I could not buy that, not in the way it was presented.
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I thoroughly enjoyed the part of the Catherine Howard story. I’m a big Tudor fan and this was such an original twist from all the stories out there. However I found Perdita quite annoying and the inheritance quite hard to swallow. It kind of spoilt it for me and I couldn’t wait for the book to get back to the historical fiction.
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