Royal Inheritance

Praise for

KATE EMERSON

“No one knows the unusual customs and dangerous characters of the Tudor court like her.”

New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper

“Captures the pageantry and the politics of the Tudor court, portraying real-life characters who negotiated turbulent times, and giving historical fiction fans a first-rate read.”

Booklist

The King’s Damsel

“An engaging tale of loyalty, love, and treachery in the court of King Henry VIII.”

Fresh Fiction

“Basing her latest novel on a letter relaying that Henry VIII claimed a mistress while wed to Anne Boleyn, Emerson cleverly captures their affair and the woman who caught the king’s eye. Emerson’s handling of the tumultuous period, and rendering of Henry’s personality, enables readers to believe they are there.”

RT Book Reviews (4 stars)

“Kate Emerson proves time and again that she knows her stuff regarding the Tudor period. She is able to write clear, vivid descriptions that make it seem as if you are right there at court with the characters. . . . Easy to get caught up in.”

Always With a Book

“A real treat.”

Historically Obsessed

At the King’s Pleasure

“A wonderfully absorbing novel that is full of enough historical detail to satisfy even the most hard-core Tudor fan. Emerson beautifully depicts the difficulty of living in a treacherous period in which one had to do what the king’s pleasure demanded, in spite of the risk of losing one’s head.”

Library Journal

“I continue to be awestruck by each and every book.”

Historically Obsessed

By Royal Decree

“Another captivating novel. . . . Emerson skillfully manages to keep Elizabeth’s life as the central point and never loses track of her faith in love and happy endings.”

RT Book Reviews (4 stars)

“Appealing . . . a refreshingly willful, sexually liberated heroine.”

Publishers Weekly

“Presenting the tempestuous and often scandalous court through the eyes of Bess Brooke . . . the author paints a confident, realistic picture of the king.”

Historical Novels Review

Between Two Queens

“Intrigue, romance, and treachery abound in this well-researched, sensitively written book.”

Renaissance magazine

“Emerson’s sharp eye for court nuances, intrigues, and passions thrusts readers straight into Nan’s life, and the swift pace will sweep you along.”

RT Book Reviews

“Filled with intrigue, mystery, and romance . . . it provides Tudor fans with yet another viewpoint of the fascinating lives of those closest to Henry VIII.”

Historical Novels Review

The Pleasure Palace

“A riveting historical novel . . . vividly fictionalizing historical characters and breathing new life into their personalities and predicaments.”

Booklist

“Emerson’s lively ‘fictional memoir’ . . . includes many vivid descriptions of the clothing, comportment, and extravagant entertainments . . . and adds to these lighter moments a subtle undercurrent of mystery and political intrigue.”

Historical Novels Review

“Rich and lushly detailed, teeming with passion and intrigue, this is a novel in which you can happily immerse yourself in another time and place.”

RT Book Reviews

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Map by Paul J. Pugliese

Map by Paul J. Pugliese

THE CHILDREN OF HENRY VIII

1

Stepney, near London, October 1556

The portrait painter wiped his hands on a ragged cloth already stained with a multitude of bright colors. Annoyance infused his every movement. When he spoke, his tone of voice brooked no argument: “I cannot complete this child’s likeness, Mistress Harington. She will not sit still.”

Hans Eworth was a master of his craft. Hireling he might be, but his services were highly prized and he was well compensated for them. However long it took him to complete a commission, while he painted he usually had only to command to be obeyed.

Audrey Harington spent a moment longer staring at the view from an upper window in the mansion that had been her husband’s town house for the last six years. It was the finest residence in Stepney, barring only the nearby Bishop of London’s palace. The house even boasted its own private chapel, in spite of the fact that it took only a few minutes to walk to the church of St. Dunstan, where everyone in the household went for services on Sundays and holy days.

From her vantage point, Audrey had an unobstructed view across more than a mile of flat fields and marshes to the most terrifying place in all of England—the Tower of London. Its stone walls rose to formidable heights, easily visible even at this distance. An involuntary shudder passed through her at the thought of all the poor souls held prisoner there, some of them for no more than a careless word. Some would eventually be set free. Others would be executed. Their fate would depend less upon guilt or innocence than upon the whim of Queen Mary and her Spanish husband, King Philip.

Shaking off these melancholy thoughts, since brooding about injustice would never accomplish anything, Audrey turned to address a situation she could remedy. Hester, her eight-year-old daughter, squirmed in the high-backed chair in which Master Eworth had posed her. It was well padded with red velvet cushions, but any position grew uncomfortable with the passage of time. The book Eworth had provided as a prop might have held her attention had she been able to read it, but it was written in Latin. The slim, leather-bound volume lay abandoned, stuffed into the space between Hester’s thigh and the seat of the chair, and in imminent danger of tumbling to the floor.

“Let me see what I can do.”

Audrey spoke in a genteel and well-modulated voice and rose smoothly from the window seat. That simple act, executed too quickly, was enough to betray her weakness. The first moment of dizziness was as debilitating as a blow to the head. The sensation did not last long, but by the time she recovered her equilibrium, warmth had flooded into her face. She needed no looking glass to know that hectic spots of color dotted her cheeks.

As Audrey glided past Master Eworth, she avoided meeting his gaze. He saw too much. His artist’s eye was keen and she feared he had already noticed how greatly she had changed since he had painted her portrait the previous year. She had been exceeding ill of a fever during the summer just past. Thousands had been. Hundreds had died. Many of the survivors were still as appallingly weak as she was.

The woman in Master Eworth’s portrait no longer existed. Perhaps she never had. That painting, hanging beside the companion piece of her husband, John Harington, in the great hall of their country house in Somersetshire, showed a tall, slender woman of twenty-seven with red-gold hair and sparkling dark brown eyes. In Eworth’s rendition, Audrey wore a richly embroidered gown, radiated raw good health, and looked out on the world with confidence.

To the casual observer, aside from the fact that she now wore plain dark red wool for warmth, she might appear unchanged. But Master Eworth knew better. So did Audrey herself. Her vitality had been sapped by recent illness, and she felt at times no more than a wraith.

In spite of the effort it took to cross the room to her daughter’s side, Audrey did not falter, nor did she do more than wince when she reached her goal and knelt beside Hester’s chair. Illusion was more important than reality, a lesson she’d learned well during the years she’d spent on the fringes of the royal court.

Hester stared down at her mother with a sad expression that made her appear far older than her years.

“What is it that troubles you, sweeting?” Audrey asked.

“Nothing.” Hester looked away, toying with the fringe on the arm of the chair.

“Is your hair braided too tightly?” The thick, dark brown tresses, an inheritance from her father, had been pulled back from her face and wound in an intricate manner on top of her head.

“No, Mother.”

“Then you must keep your promise to pose for Master Eworth. When your portrait is finished, it will hang in the great hall at Catherine’s Court.”

“Distract her ...

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