REVIEW: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh (Marquess House #1)

Series: Marquess House Trilogy

Book Number: 1

Read this book for: historical mystery, alternate history, conspiracy thriller, shadowy organizations, big secrets, female leads

Quick Review: A conspiracy thriller that fans of Dan Brown will love, with an intriguing premise and lots of great history retold in an interesting way!

***

Whitehall Palace, England, 1539

When Catherine Howard arrives at the court of King Henry VIII to be a maid of honour in the household of the new queen, Anne of Cleves, she has no idea of the fate that awaits her.

Catching the king’s fancy, she finds herself caught up in her uncle’s ambition to get a Howard heir to the throne.

Terrified by the ageing king after the fate that befell her cousin, Anne Boleyn, Catherine begins to fear for her life…

Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2018

Dr Perdita Rivers receives news of the death of her estranged grandmother, renowned Tudor historian Mary Fitzroy.

Mary inexplicably cut all contact with Perdita and her twin sister, Piper, but she has left them Marquess House, her vast estate in Pembrokeshire.

Perdita sets out to unravel their grandmother’s motives for abandoning them, and is drawn into the mystery of an ancient document in the archives of Marquess House, a collection of letters and diaries claiming the records of Catherine Howard’s execution were falsified…

What truths are hiding in Marquess House? What really happened to Catherine Howard?

And how was Perdita’s grandmother connected to it all?

THE CATHERINE HOWARD CONSPIRACY is the first novel in the Marquess House trilogy by Alexandra Walsh, which combines a historical mystery with a temporary thriller in a dual-timeline piece that Dan Brown fans will love.

This being the first in the series, we don’t know yet exactly how it fits into the rest of the novels, but the amount of historical information in this novel — not to mention the cliffhanger ending! — suggest that the rest of the trilogy will link very tightly with this instalment. I would highly recommend that you read this one for the background prior to reading the other series. However, given the cliffhanger, you’ll be desperate for the next one ASAP!

The premise for this book is what makes it so gripping. Very reminscent of THE DAVINCI CODE in many respects, this book centres on a piece of history that is very different in this telling than the accepted story, and a conspiracy to keep that different telling hidden. If you have a bit of background knowledge or interest in Henry VIII’s court, you may have to tolerate a few info downloads, but the retelling of history makes them compelling regardless. It’s a delight for the lovers of history, and some of the things that take place in this novel (the inheritance of an estate dating back to Tudor times along with a vast fortune, a dedicated historical research centre and an incredible library) are fantasy wish fulfillment for history and book lovers alike!

Additional depth to this story is added by the sections that are written from Catherine Howard’s own point of view. This time-shift really connects you to the history, and offers yet another interesting and different perspective on an often-chronicled period of history. It does take a bit of the suspense out of the main story, but it is compellingly told, and the Tudor court becomes real and relatable under Walsh’s pen.

The thriller elements of this novel, along with the easy, simple writing style make this a great summer read. The plot is not overly complex, and there’s a good mix of personalities, twists and turns to keep the novel from being overwhelmed by the weight of the history.

THE CATHERINE HOWARD CONSPIRACY is definitely worth picking up for both the interesting history and a fun-to-read story. We can’t wait for the next instalment!

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