“My name is Mary Seymour and I am the daughter of one queen and the niece of another.”
Browsing antiques shops in Wiltshire, Alison Bannister stumbles across a delicate old portrait – supposedly of Anne Boleyn. Except Alison knows better… The woman is Mary Seymour, the daughter of Katherine Parr who was taken to Wolf Hall in 1557 as an unwanted orphan and presumed dead after going missing as a child.
The painting is more than just a beautiful object from Alison’s past – it holds the key to her future, unlocking the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance, and the enigma of Alison’s son.
But Alison’s quest soon takes a dark and foreboding turn, as a meeting place called the Phantom Tree harbours secrets in its shadows…
I'm really excited to be part of the blog tour for author Nicola Cornick's latest release 'The Phantom Tree' today! I had the pleasure of reading her novel 'House of Shadows' last year, which was a really intriguing and enjoyable time-slip novel set in the 17th and 19th century and present day. Back then I was already keen to read more of Nicola's work, so I was really glad when I was asked to be part of this blog tour and said 'yes' straight away. I also have a great guest post from Nicola herself to share with all of you, so be sure to scroll down to also check that out, as well as the links of all the other blogs taking part in this tour, in case you'd like to read a bit more about the book!
Alison Bannister has been searching for her lost son Arthur for a long time already, but her time and place are making it quite difficult for her to trace him. Alison grew up during the sixteenth century, but now finds herself trapped in modern times, with no idea how to get herself back. Then she stumbles upon a portrait of what is said to be Anne Boleyn, but Alison immediately recognises as her cousin Mary Seymour. Mary promised to help Alison with the search for her son, so the portrait might include some clues to help Alison in the right direction. But will Alison be able to be helped by Mary, despite the time difference, and can she finally find what she has been looking for all this time and go back to where she believes she belongs...?
I love reading a good historical fiction book every now and again and I have to say Nicola Cornick is becoming one of my historical fiction authors to turn to. Her 2016 novel 'House of Shadows' was a great read and her latest release, 'The Phantom Tree', is another intriguing and well-written novel I thoroughly enjoyed. Time travel takes on an important role in this book, and while this is a topic that has always fascinated me, it's also a topic that needs to be approached in a particular way for it to be done well and convincingly. Nicola Cornick definitely managed to do that, and Alison's story grabbed my attention from the very beginning and held it until the last page. There was quite a bit going on in the story; more than enough to keep me guessing about the details and what would happen to all the characters.
I'm not a particular fan of the Tudor age, but this story really fascinated me. I love how the author actually used an existing person, Mary Seymour, to play a significant role in this book and decided to fill in some of the gaps herself. It really gave the story that special touch, if you ask me. If I have to give one point of critique I'd admit I didn't really warm to Alison that much, but perhaps this also has to do with the struggles she's facing which reflect on her behaviour and actions. However, overall, Nicola Cornick has definitely convinced me once again with her writing and I already can't wait for her next novel. 'The Phantom Tree' is a well-written, intriguing and convincing historical fiction novel, and definitely one I can recommend to anyone looking for their next read!
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Guest Post by Nicola Cornick
I'm both honoured and excited to welcome Nicola Cornick herself to the blog today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, 'The Phantom Tree'! Below you can find a special guest post from Nicola herself in which she tells us a bit more about one of the main characters in her novel, Mary Seymour!
The Theories, Myths and Stories surrounding Mary Seymour
Mary Seymour is the ultimate mysterious historical heroine. The known facts of her life are so few that she is a gift for an author who enjoys filling the gaps in research with historical imagination. I was drawn to tell Mary’s story because lesser-known historical women appeal to me. I want to bring them into the light.
Mary Seymour was born in August 1548 at Sudeley Castle. That much we do know. She was the daughter and only child of Thomas, Baron Seymour, brother of the more famous Jane, and Katherine Parr, the sixth wife and widow of King Henry VIII, who had married the previous year. Katherine died only five days later as a result of complications arising from childbirth leaving all her fortune to her husband. Less than a year after that, Thomas was executed for treason and his estates confiscated, leaving Mary a penniless orphan before the age of one.
It is a curious thing that no one in either of Mary’s extended families, the Seymours or the Parrs, was prepared to give her a home. Instead she went to live with the Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, who had been a close friend of her mother. However the destitute Mary was a drain on the Duchess’s financial resources and one of the few references we have to her is when Katherine complained that she received no payment for looking after the “late Queen’s child.”
Mary disappeared from the historical record in 1550 and after that, myths and theories abound as to her fate. Author Agnes Strickland claimed that Mary had survived into adulthood and married Sir Edward Bushell, a courtier in the household of Queen Anne of Denmark. However, no evidence has been found to support this. Similarly, the idea that Mary was sent to Ireland to live with a family called Hart, a band of pirates who had known her father, is colourful but not proven. An epitaph in a book written by Katherine Parr’s chaplain in 1573 could refer to Mary but no grave has ever been found. She remains an intriguing mystery.
The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick is out now (£7.99, HQ)