An unconventional woman. A deadly enemy. A clash of intrigue, deception, and desire. . . .
1525: Artist Susanna Horenbout is sent from Belgium to be Henry VIII’s personal illuminator inside the royal palace. But her new homeland greets her with an attempt on her life, and the King’s most lethal courtier, John Parker, is charged with keeping her safe. As further attacks are made, Susanna and Parker realize that she unknowingly carries the key to a bloody plot against the throne. For while Richard de la Pole amasses troops in France for a Yorkist invasion, a traitor prepares to trample the kingdom from within.
Who is the mastermind? Why are men vying to kill the woman Parker protects with his life? With a motley gang of urchins, Susanna’s wits, and Parker’s fierce instincts, honed on the streets and in palace chambers, the two slash through deadly layers of deceit in a race against time. For in the court of Henry VIII, secrets are the last to die. . . .
Brilliantly revealing a little-known historical figure who lived among the Tudors, Michelle Diener makes a smashing historical fiction debut.
John Parker is a loyal servant of Henry VIII, who, upon fetching painter Susanna Horenbout from the docks one day, discovers her hearing the last words of a dying man words that could bring down the kingdom; Parker tries to persuade her to tell him, but Susanna refuses. "I gave my word to a dying man," she insists; the secret is for the king alone. From the moment of her arrival at court, Susanna's life is in danger, with murderous men coming out of the woodwork to try to kill her. As Parker becomes both her protector and lover, he struggles to discover who exactly wants Susanna dead, why, and how she threatens the king. With their enemies likely closer than anyone would suspect, Parker finds his loyalty to his king and his budding love for this woman in conflict. He may not be able to have both. In her debut, the first of a planned series, Diener cuts her characters from the classic molds: Parker is a violent, loyal loner; Horenbout is one part skilled painter and two parts damsel in distress. Fans of Tudor historicals will recognize players like the treacherous duke of Norfolk and the villainous George Boleyn, but this tale could take place almost anywhere.