I first met Elizabeth (Liz) St. John at a Historical Novel Society Conference in Denver where we listened intently to author presentations and panels, took copious notes, shared meals and drinks, and talked for hours with other enthusiastic historical fiction authors.
So, I was thrilled to read a pre-release version of her latest novel, The Godmother’s Secret, a compelling page-turner that grabbed me from the very first chapter. Every aspect of this story transports the reader to the 15th century, to a world of powerful, conniving aristocrats, feuding families, kings and queens, and a deadly secret.
Elizabeth St. John crafts her story with all the ingredients of successful historical fiction:
- Superb writing – Elizabeth combines both narrative and dialogue in a way that flows easily and engages the reader in her characters, the plot, and the tension that is at the heart of the novel. She weaves in phrases and words that are authentic to the time period but never intrude on the story.
- Dramatic arc of historical events – the story begins in 1470 during the Wars of the Roses when Edward IV is king and Lady Elysabeth Scrope is chosen to be the king’s son Prince Edward’s godmother. When Edward IV dies, the succession is thrown into turmoil and Elysabeth does everything in her power to protect the prince and his younger brother. The central question: did the young princes die in the Tower of London, and if so, who killed them? And if not, where did they go?
- Characters both heroic and human – central to the story are Elysabeth Scrope, Richard III (formerly Duke of Gloucester and brother to Edward IV), the Duke of Buckingham (another brother), Margaret Beaufort (Elysabeth’s half-sister), Elysabeth’s husband Lord John/Jack Scrope, and the two princes. Each of these characters plays a significant role, but it is Elysabeth who carries the main storyline and whose courage, love, wisdom, and tenaciousness hold our attention. Elizabeth St. John truly gets inside the character of Elysabeth Scrope and brings her to life.
- Immersed in time and place – the story held me in the 15th century through its use of language, dialogue, imagery, fashion, customs, food, and many other aspects. The Wars of the Roses is a confusing time, however, the author kept me well anchored as the plot unfolded.
- Corridors of power – powerful lords vying for superiority, scheming men and women grasping for power while pitting both sides against one another, the rules of succession from one king to another, the roles that women played both sanctioned and unsanctioned. Totally fascinating.
- Authentic and educational – Elizabeth St. John tackles the question of whether Richard III had his nephews killed. Her portrayal of Richard is both sympathetic and critical. She reveals the challenges facing families with divided loyalties during the Wars of the Roses and takes us through the change of dynasties from the York family to the Tudor family.
- Ageless themes – for me duty, responsibility, the corrupting influence of wealth and power, divided loyalties, and the power of love emerge as the themes of The Godmother’s Secret.
- High stakes – for Elysabeth the stakes are very high. Can she protect the prince she is sworn to protect? Can she hold onto her husband’s love? Should she remain loyal to her sister despite evidence of her sister’s traitorous actions? For others, the stakes are life and death, power or obscurity, loyalty or dishonour.
- Sex and love – love is a major focus for the novel. The love Elysabeth has for her husband; the love she develops for her godson; the love of family; conflicting loves.
- Dysfunctional families – yes, definitely! Brothers betraying one another. A sister who can’t be trusted. Two rival branches of the House of Plantagenet – Lancaster and York – at war.
Superb story. Superb historical fiction. The Godmother’s Secret rates five stars for me!
If you knew the fate of the Princes in the Tower, would you tell? Or forever keep the secret?
May 1483: The Tower of London. When King Edward IV dies and Lady Elysabeth Scrope delivers her young godson, Edward V, into the Tower of London to prepare for his coronation, she is engulfed in political turmoil. Within months, the prince and his brother have disappeared, Richard III is declared king, and Elysabeth’s sister Margaret Beaufort conspires with her son Henry Tudor to invade England and claim the throne.
Desperate to protect her godson, Elysabeth battles the intrigue, betrayal, and power of the last medieval court, defying her Yorkist husband and her Lancastrian sister under her godmother’s sacred oath to keep Prince Edward safe. Bound by blood and rent by honour, Elysabeth is torn between King Richard and Margaret Beaufort, knowing that if her loyalty is questioned, she is in peril of losing everything—including her life.
Were the princes murdered by their uncle, Richard III? Did Margaret Beaufort mastermind their disappearance to usher in the Tudor dynasty? Or did the young boys vanish for their own safety? Of anyone at the royal court, Elysabeth has the most to lose–and the most to gain–by keeping secret the fate of the Princes in the Tower.
Inspired by England’s most enduring historical mystery, Elizabeth St.John blends her family history with known facts and centuries of speculation to create an intriguing story about what happened to the Princes in the Tower.
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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.