This new novel in the “wonderfully absorbing” (Library Journal) Secrets of the Tudor Court series, features a tailor’s daughter who suspects she is an illegitimate offspring of King Henry VIII.
Audrey Malte is illegitimate, though her beloved father—tailor to King Henry VIII—prefers to call her “merry-begot,” saying there was much joy in her making. Then Audrey visits the royal court with her father, and the whispers start about Audrey’s distinctive Tudor-red hair and the kindness that the king shows her. Did dashing Henry perhaps ask Malte to raise a royal love child? The king’s favor, however, brings Audrey constraint as well as opportunity. Though she holds tender feelings for her handsome music tutor, John Harington, the king is pressuring her to marry into the family of treacherous, land-hungry Sir Richard Southwell. Audrey determines to learn the truth about her birth at last. The answer may give her the freedom to give her heart as she chooses . . . or it could ensnare her deeper in an enemy’s ruthless scheme.
In her latest of the Secrets of the Tudor Court series (after The King's Damsel), Tudor aficionado Emerson suggests that Henry VIII fathered an out-of-wedlock daughter with one of the royal laundresses and privately arranged for her to be put in the care of his personal tailor, John Malte. Imagining the life story of Audrey Malte, an actual historical figure, the author reliably mixes court intrigue and the complicated politics of Henry's life and multiple wives with the fascinating private journey of a young woman who gradually becomes aware of her royal heritage. Audrey's life story is told to her only daughter, Hester, and this device works as the tale shifts back and forth between the "present" (1556) and the past, beginning in 1532 when Audrey first encounters the King and where her account takes off. The special treatment Audrey receives through the years private tutors and court visits raises suspicions among her siblings, and though all think John Malte is her real father and that she was his "merry-begot" (a bastard child), it is not until Audrey is a young woman that she comes to learn the identity of her true father. Emerson cleverly makes a good case for her royal connection, as well as for why the King did not officially recognize her. Adding punch is the love story between Audrey and John Harrington. Another satisfying, page-turning addition to Emerson's series.