Novel Excerpt

This comes from the opening pages of the Prologue where we meet Edward Howard, Thomas’s second son, and Grace Tredavoe, daughter of a Cornish nobleman, engaged in a secret tryst in Zennor Castle, at the furthermost tip of Cornwall. They are a young couple, madly in love, but it is clear they have obstacles to overcome as challenging as Romeo and Juliet who came before them….

       She reached out to touch his cheek. ‘If only we’d known each other then, matters would be so much simpler now.’

  Noticing a tiny frown on the girl’s smooth brow, he took the goblet from between her fingers and set it down. ‘Don’t fret, Grace. Father won’t refuse me. I’m his favourite son.’

     ‘What of my father?’

    ‘He’ll be pleased you’ve made such a good match.’

    ‘Better than—’

     ‘Yes! Far better than him.’

 

                       *                       *                          *

 

They fell silent for a few moments, the air between them thick with unspoken words; from the great hall below, came the faint sound of drums and the strains of a hurdy gurdy, interspersed with gales of laughter from the revellers.

    The boy nodded towards the door, a thick swathe of dark chestnut hair falling across his face. ‘“Le branle des chevaux” {‘the horses’ brawl’}. Your brother seems to be leading everyone a merry dance in his role of Lord of Misrule. What luck he managed to find the bean in the Twelfth Night cake.’

    His companion gave a mischievous giggle. ‘I confess luck has very little to do with it. Will and I long ago decided that finding the bean should be a matter of family honour.’

    ‘I see. Then we’re very well matched. Your family and mine. A Tredavoe and a Howard. I’d love to see you as the Lady of Misrule.’

  ‘You will,’ she said, stroking his hair, ‘but not tonight.’

      He grasped her fingers in his and kissed them one by one. ‘No, not tonight. I only hope we haven’t been missed in the great hall.’

   ‘Oh, Ned, why can’t we just run away and find a priest?’

   The girl gave another shiver and the boy pulled her closer to his chest. ‘My love, a Howard never runs away, I’ve learned that from my father. He’s never run away from anything in his whole life. And he always gets up to fight another day. I’ve told him he reminds me of a phoenix rising from the ashes.’

      ‘Here, let me prove my love for you.’ He bent over her and grazed her lips with his own, a laugh catching in his throat.  ‘My sweeting tastes of honey, cinnamon and ginger, with a hint of saffron.’ He placed one hand on his heart: ‘“Her mouth was as sweet as any mead whatever.” So wrote that clever poet, Geoffrey Chaucer.’ He drew her to him again. ‘With this kiss I plight my troth.’

    Entwining her arms around his neck, the girl returned his long embrace with equal passion.

 

                                 *                       *                         *

 

     At length, when they were both left gasping for breath, he broke away. Picking up a strand of her long flaxen hair, he wound it tightly around the fourth finger of her left hand. ‘Some say this finger has a vein that leads straight to the heart.’

    The girl’s green eyes flashed. Wiggling her finger, she traced a path downwards from her chin to her chest. ‘See. Mine has.’

   ‘Soon you’ll be one of us.’

  ‘A Howard?’

  ‘Yes. My wife. Grace Tredavoe no more.’

   She let out a long sigh of contentment. ‘I can almost hear the King’s herald announcing our arrival in the great hall at Westminster for the Christmas celebrations.’ Pretending to hold up a trumpet, she adopted a suitably deferential tone: “Your Majesties, may I present Lord Edward Howard—”’

     He laughed. ‘“And Lady Grace How—”’

  ‘We’ll be dressed in such finery and look so happy that the King will—’

   ‘Immediately send me to the Tower for my impudence. Henry Tudor abhors any attempt to outdo him.’

   The girl let out a gasp. ‘Don’t ever say that again, Ned. Not even in jest. Promise me.’

    ‘I promise. But Father has taught us never to be afraid of anything or anyone. Certainly not of the King. He calls him “Goose” behind his back.’

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