Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable.
Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness — and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante.
But when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.
As a child I was the one in the corner with my nose in a book who wanted to be a writer, but with the onset of a turbulent adolescence I left school, under a cloud, aged fifteen with nothing more than a fistful of O Levels and a hapless sense that things would somehow work themselves out. Eventually, after working in various dodgy dives – I’ve served grey scrambled eggs to squaddies at 5.30am; I’ve served vintage champagne to raucous hoorays; I’ve pulled pints for all and sundry – I managed to find myself, much in the way Forrest Gump always landed on his feet, working as a dogsbody on a fashion magazine. From there I climbed the slippery pole that is fashion, working for titles such as Vogue, Elle and The Sunday Times and contributing to many others. Marriage took me to Paris, a stint at French Vogue and the birth of my two gorgeous children but divorce saw me back home in London where I have happily remained. Fuelled by frustration with a fashion world that does no favours to women, I decided to complete my truncated education as a mature student which led, in a long and roundabout way with many frustrating impasses, to my fulfilling that childhood dream to become a novelist.