Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Blog Tour Excerpt: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy
by Alexandra Walsh

Published March 28, 2019
Sapere Books
ebook, paperback; 468 pages

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 a twist on a well-known period of Tudor history.


“There, her.” The queen pointed as her maids danced. She and the king had been married for two weeks and her English was improving each day. “The fox in the pretty gown. Who is she, Sir Edward?”
     “That’s Mistress Catherine Howard. We call her Kitty,” he replied as Catherine’s red hair gleamed in the morning light. “She’s my wife’s sister.”
     There was a small amount of pride in his voice. Catherine was an excellent dancer.
     “She has hair like a fox.” The queen laughed at her own joke and Edward smiled. He had never really noticed the redness of Catherine’s hair; a hood usually covered it. But here in the queen’s chambers, it was loose while she danced and it was a deep, luxuriant auburn. “You call her Kitty, like a cat?”
     “It’s a familiar name for Catherine,” he explained. “With so many Catherines, it makes it easier to distinguish her.”
     The queen smiled. “You ask your Kitty to teach me to dance,” she said. “Maybe the king, he like it.”
     A shadow drifted across her face, which was quickly replaced by her ever-ready serene and enigmatic smile. Edward beckoned to Isabel and after a brief, whispered conversation, she bobbed a curtsey and retreated.
     “My wife will arrange for you and Kitty to dance together every afternoon so she can teach you the steps,” Edward said.
     “Good, she has pretty ways, like a fox,” sighed the queen.

When Isabel told her about the dance classes, Catherine was appalled.
     “I can’t spend my afternoons alone with the queen!” she exclaimed.
     “Why? Do you have something better to do?” asked Margaret Douglas, looking up from the intricate embroidery she held in her hands. She smiled lewdly. “Or is it someone? Do you have a secret lover, Kitty-Kat?”
     Catherine blushed. “Of course not!” she retorted. “But I’ve never been alone with someone royal before. What if I offend her?”
     “You won’t,” said Isabel. “And anyway, you won’t be alone. Edward will be there and probably the duchess of Suffolk or the marchioness of Dorset, perhaps the duchess of Richmond.”
     Catherine went even paler. “Why not invite the Privy Seal and be done with it,” she said faintly.
     “I’ll do it if it gets me out of this wretched sewing,” interrupted Lady Carey as she bit through a piece of cotton with her neat, white teeth.
     “You go then,” said Catherine, only half joking. “I’ll do your sewing for you!”
     The others laughed, but Catherine remained apprehensive until the following afternoon when Isabel led her into the queen’s inner chamber. To her surprise and horror, the queen was alone, except for her interpreter. She had removed the long, blonde wig she often used for ceremonial and court appearances, and her dark hair hung loose around her shoulders. It curled slightly, framing her face and accentuating her deep, green eyes. She smiled shyly as Catherine curtseyed.
     “Your grace, may I present my younger sister, Mistress Catherine Howard,” said Isabel, also curtseying.
     The queen indicated for them both to rise.
     “You’re lucky to be together,” she said via her interpreter. “I miss my sisters, Sybille and Amalia. Yet, Lady Isabel, you were Lady Leigh, were you not?”
     “We are half-sisters, your grace,” Isabel explained. “We have the same mother, Jocasta Culpepper, but my father was Sir Ralph Leigh, while Catherine’s was Lord Edmund Howard.”
     The queen nodded as though she understood, but Catherine noticed her interpreter discreetly translating.
     “Ah, so this is why,” said the queen after a few moments. “I was a little confused. Did your mother teach you to dance? You are both very good.”
     Catherine looked at Isabel, who nodded for her to respond to the queen.
     “Our mother has been dead for some years now,” said Catherine. “As are both our fathers. We are orphans.”
     The queen looked startled when the interpreter explained this.
     “Then you must both be under my care, as I am mother to this realm. I will be mother to you both,” she said. It did not matter that she was younger than Isabel and only a few years older than Catherine. It was a gesture of friendship and Catherine smiled.
     “Thank you, your grace,” she said, dropping her eyes demurely.
     “And now, we dance,” said the queen. She clapped her hands and the musicians who were waiting on the gallery above, struck a chord. “What shall we learn first?”
     Anne was on her feet, eager to begin.
     “We could start with the pavane,” suggested Catherine, thinking this ceremonial dance that was rather like a procession, would give the queen the basic grounding she needed, particularly as most of the other dances used the pavane between breaks. “Then once you’ve mastered that, we can move onto the faster dances like the gavotte, the almain, the volte, the galliard, maybe the saltarello.”
     “And you know all these dances?” the queen asked, astonished.
     Catherine thought back to the nights of dancing at her step-grandmother’s house.
     “Oh yes,” she said. “I know all these and more.”
     “Then let us begin,” said Anne, indicating for Catherine to take to the floor with her. Catherine shot a nervous glance at Isabel, then joined the queen.

Now, several weeks later, Catherine looked forward to her afternoons spent with Queen Anne. Although Anne was not a natural dancer, she was eager to learn and Catherine was a patient teacher. It amused her when, during other court duties or under the table during banquet in the Great Hall, she often noticed the queen practising her dance steps surreptitiously when she was seated, thinking no one would see her feet moving under her capacious skirts. However, despite Anne’s efforts to win the king around, the rumours of the growing discontent of Henry with his new bride were becoming more and more pronounced.

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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 Catherine Howard Conspiracy is on a blog tour!

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