In a gripping historical novel of suspense and romance, two women fight to defeat the enemies of the precarious Tudor monarchy by uncovering the secrets of the dead....
London, 1501. In a time of political unrest, Varina Westcott, a young widow and candle maker for court and church, agrees to perform a clandestine service for Queen Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII--carve wax figures of four dead children, two of her offspring lost in infancy and her two brothers, the Princes of the Tower, whose mysterious disappearance years ago has never been solved. Having lost a child herself, Varina feels a sympathetic bond with the queen. And as she works under the watchful eye of handsome Nicholas Sutton, an ambitious assistant to the royals, she develops feelings of quite a different nature....
Then news comes from Wales of the unexpected death of newly married Prince Arthur, the queen’s eldest child and heir to the throne. Deeply grieving, Elizabeth suspects that Arthur did not die of a sudden illness, as reported, but was actually murdered by her husband’s enemies. This time her task for Varina and Nicholas is of vital importance--travel into the Welsh wilderness to investigate the prince’s death. But as the couple unearths one unsettling clue after another, they begin to fear that the conspiracy they’re confronting is far more ambitious and treacherous than even the queen imagined. And it aims to utterly destroy the Tudor dynasty.
With impeccable research and just enough romance (no bodice ripping or "tongues of fire" here), bestseller Harper (Fall From Pride) illuminates a part of Tudor history often ignored. Twenty-six-year-old widow Varina Westcott, a London wax chandler, is summoned to Westminster Palace and escorted there by Nicholas Sutton and Sibil Wynn. Henry VII's queen, Elizabeth of York, aware of Varina's artistic talent, orders wax effigies of her two late children and her two brothers, "the so-called lost princes in the Tower," who disappeared mysteriously under the protection of Richard III. Varina and the queen forge a close bond, partly because both have lost a son around the same age. The queen comes to trust her, just as Varina grows to trust Nick and depend upon his constant presence. Varina receives further chandlery commissions from the palace with the nuptials of the Queen's eldest child, Prince Arthur, and Catherine of Aragon, but it's not long before Varina discovers that her connection to the palace is generating attention of a most unwelcome sort. When the Queen asks her to investigate Prince Arthur's sudden death, Varina's fate is cast into the deepest intrigues of the volatile 16th century. Harper writes with effortless prose and an expert take on the era.