cover image Mistress of Mourning

Mistress of Mourning

Karen Harper. NAL, $15 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-451-23690-6

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. (July)