Title: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy
Author: Alexandra Walsh
Publisher: 28th March 2019 by Sapere Books
Pages: 464 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
My Rating: 5 cups
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.
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.