This sensational collection of three historical romances shows us that even for the well-to-do, love was not easy during Tudor times. Blythe Gifford begins TUDOR CHRISTMAS TIDINGS with "Christmas at Court," in which Sir John Talbot and Lady Alice, daughter of the Earl of Oakshire, form a secret betrothal. Their hope to marry depends on politicking, rivalry, and armed insurrection. Richard III is king, and two young princes who came into his care have never been seen again. The Wars of the Roses are not going to be settled until Henry Tudor, currently in France, claims the throne. The families of the two young people tread dangerous paths.
"Secrets of the Queen’s Lady," by Jenni Fletcher, tells how Lady Philippa, widowed lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves after her divorce, meets a handsome diplomat. Sir Christopher Lowell is a few years younger than her and his older brother intends to have him wed a landowner’s lass, but at Richmond Palace’s festivities and then Hampton Court with the full merriment of the King’s company, the two form a strong attachment--if only Philippa could overcome the bad memories of marriage. A gorgeous touch is that Anne introduces a decorated fir tree to her hall.
"His Mistletoe Lady" by Amanda McCabe is the third book, casting a unique sidelight on the era. Catherine, a half-Spanish lady called Catalina by her mother, seeks help from a mysterious Spaniard Don Diego to free her father from the Tower of London. Christmas at Whitehall Palace is merry and mischievous in this story, unlike the first, more sober story, which revolved around an earlier time of pious ceremony; while in the second people had to abide by convention, except of course when it came to the king wanting to marry whichever lovely courtier had caught his eye. The long-running Tudor saga is notorious for larger than life historical figures, and our romance characters fit in with and act around them, always in danger of being shoved aside if they lose favour. We learn of customs like hanging green boughs, and the feast of a boar’s head roasted, with an apple in its mouth.
TUDOR CHRISTMAS TIDINGS is enough to satisfy the demands of those who love historical romances and even the pickiest of historians. Anyone finding this volume in her stocking will enjoy a satisfying Yuletide read of contrasts and couples, dances, and despots. Talk about entertainment.
In Blythe Gifford’s Christmas at Court, Sir John Talbot and Lady Alice’s secret betrothal must wait until Henry Tudor claims the throne. Next in Secrets of the Queen’s Lady by Jenni Fletcher, the lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves is unexpectedly reunited with a handsome—younger—diplomat at the palace’s festivities! And in His Mistletoe Lady by Amanda McCabe, Catherine seeks help from a mysterious Spaniard to free her father in time for Christmas!
The gardens were Pippa’s favourite place at Richmond. There was a deer park surrounding the palace, too, but the enclosed terraces, with their marble statues and fountains, neatly trimmed hedges and topiary sculptures lent a reassuring sense of shelter and security. In the distance, the sky over London was streaked with ribbons of pink, threatening rain or worse to come, but at this early hour of the morning, the frosty air felt bracing and salubrious, clearing her head and restoring her inner sense of calm.
She’d had a disturbed night, dreaming of a pair of slate-coloured eyes in a strong-jawed face, framed by sharply arched brows and a mane of golden hair. She’d pulled back her bed curtains and come outside even earlier than usual, exasperated and shocked by the wanton nature of her own imagination. It was mortifying to have been so affected by a moment that she’d surely imagined! Not to mention by a man so many years her junior! She hadn’t thought about any man in that way since…well, not since the earliest days of her marriage almost twenty years ago.
At thirty-five, she was among the oldest of Lady Anne’s ladies, ten years older than Anne herself, and even if she had been reasonably attractive once, she was now long past her prime. Kit might have said that he was pleased to see her again, but only as what he’d called her, an old friend, which meant that whatever intensity she’d thought she’d seen in his eyes the previous evening had simply been concern, that was all. It was ridiculous—shameful!—to imagine it might have meant anything more. She only hoped that he hadn’t noticed anything too revealing about her expression.
She turned into a narrow avenue bordered on both sides by towering walls of yew hedge. The path between was an apt metaphor for her life now, she thought ruefully, mercifully calmer and more predictable than it had been and yet confined and occasionally lonely, too—a path she was destined to walk mostly alone. Which was just as it should be, she reminded herself, skimming her glove across the prickly surface of the thicket, just as she’d promised herself it would be…
A twig snapped and she looked up, her heart slamming to a halt as she saw Kit striding from the opposite direction towards her. She stopped, half in surprise, half in embarrassment, the merest sight of him undoing all of her carefully restored calmness and turning her mind into a riot of conflicting emotions. He hadn’t yet seen her, walking along with his eyes fixed on the ground as if he were deep in thought, so that for a moment she was tempted to turn around and flee, but such behaviour would only confirm her foolishness. What would she say if he caught her? She had no quarrel with him, after all, and it was ridiculous to be so aware of him as a man. No, the best thing she could do was to stand her ground and act normally. He would either laugh or make a hasty retreat back to London if he guessed even half of what she was thinking!
‘Good morning.’ She dipped into what she hoped was a suitably modest curtsy, relieved by how steady her voice sounded.
‘Pippa?’ His steps faltered as he lifted his head, looking equally surprised to see her. ‘You’re outside early.’
‘Yes.’ She stiffened, the sound of her name on his lips sending a shiver of awareness rippling down her spine. It seemed too intimate somehow, even though she’d told him to call her by it. Of course that had been yesterday, before the moment in Lady Anne’s presence chamber…the moment she’d surely imagined… ‘I like to enjoy the peace of the gardens before everyone else is awake.’
‘As do I.’ He held on to her gaze for a few seconds, his own searching. In contrast to his friendly behaviour yesterday, his attitude now seemed faintly guarded. ‘Perhaps we might walk together for a while?’
Pippa twisted her head in the direction of the palace. Only the high, four-storey turrets and elaborate crenellations were visible above the top of the hedge, meaning that in their current position they were effectively hidden from view, but a walk out in the open was more likely to be noticed and at this time of the morning it could easily be mistaken for an assignation, no matter how ridiculous the idea sounded. Lady Anne had strict rules for behaviour. Even after the annulment of her marriage, it was imperative that she and her household remain untouched by scandal. The King’s favour was a precarious thing.
‘I’m afraid that a walk might not be appropriate…’ If she wasn’t mistaken, she saw a flash of disappointment in his eyes. ‘But there’s a small pavilion close by. Perhaps we might sit there for a while? It’s not too cold, I think.’
‘That would be pleasant.’ He inclined his head, clasping his hands behind his back as he fell into step alongside her.