“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.
In The Phantom Tree author Nicola Cornick takes the real life Mary Seymour, who disappeared from the record books in 1550, and weaves a fictional tale of what could have happened to her.
Starting in the present day when Alison sees the portrait that she knows is certainly Mary Seymour, she tries to explain to the person who found it ...... but how does she know it's definitely not Anne Boleyn? How can Alison explain that she was born in the 16th century and knew Mary and lived with her for a short time at Wolf Hall?
Alison can't find her way back and she is desperate to go home and find out what happened to her son. When she sees the portrait she believes that Mary has given her some clues to help her find him.
This is so much more than a time travel tale.
The two different time periods are skilfully interwoven to build up a picture of Alison and Mary's lives in the 1500's, how they disliked each other, their jealousies, how poor Mary was unwanted and unloved, all interspersed with the present day and Alison's dilemma and desperation.
It took me a while to get used to the going back and forth in time, but once I did I was absolutely engrossed. I loved the writing, it was beautifully told, I really cared about the characters, about what happened to them, and was always curious as to how it would all end and be resolved.
Nicola Cornick has written an imaginative and unpredictable tale, with twists and turns and surprises aplenty, well-crafted with memorable characters. This is a book that I'll remember for a long time. Very enjoyable!
Special thanks to Harlequin UK and Netgalley.com for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Nicola Cornick is a historian and author. She studied at London University and Ruskin College, Oxford and works for the National Trust as a guide at the 17th century hunting lodge Ashdown House in Oxfordshire. Her award winning books are international bestsellers and have been translated into 26 languages.