Under the names Kathy Lynn Emerson and Kate Emerson, I’ve written numerous novels in which real Tudor women make an appearance. In the “Secrets of the Tudor Court” series written as Kate Emerson, a real woman is center stage in each novel. In the mysteries and historical romances written as Kathy Lynn Emerson, they are minor characters interacting with my fictional protagonists. In a few cases, a real sixteenth-century woman served as the model for a fictional character. Below you will find brief summaries of the novels I’ve set in the sixteenth century and a note on real women included in the stories.
WINTER TAPESTRY (1991) is set in 1553-4, during the reign of Mary Tudor. After the murder of her father, with whom she has been living in exile in Strasbourg, Cordell Shelby is desperate to return to England. To achieve this goal, she marries Roger Allington, a young Englishman about whom she harbors the darkest suspicions. Intrigue, romance, and espionage abound in this picaresque adventure. Members of the English Protestant community in exile appear as characters, including Maria Heyman, wife of John Ponet. In England there are brief appearances by Elizabeth Brooke, Marchioness of Northampton, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Lady Browne (later countess of Lincoln), Katherine Champernowne Astley, and a young Lettice Knollys. I was inspired, in part, by the lives of the Cooke sisters of Gidea Hall.
UNQUIET HEARTS (1994) is set in 1561Lancashire. It doesn’t involve any real Elizabethans, but I loosely based some of the storyline, which has to do with a group of women their neighbors mistakenly believe to be witches, on later events in Tudor history. This historical romance had one of the genre’s worst covers. Wrong century for clothing. Wrong social status of the characters. And the black gown? Well, I did tell the art department that she was in mourning for the death of her mother.
THE GREEN ROSE (1994) is set in 1590. Orphaned Meriall Sentlow enters the service of a distant relative in order to survive and encounters intrigues on both the romantic and the political level. The characters of Lady Dixfield, her daughters, and her servant are loosely based on Elizabeth Cooke, Lady Russell and her household at Blackfriars. The character of Amata is loosely based on Emilia Bassano, a contender to be the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
FACE DOWN IN THE MARROW-BONE PIE (1997), set in 1559, is the first in the Face Down Mystery Series featuring Susanna, Lady Appleton, as the amateur detective. She is an expert on poisonous herbs. Although Susanna does not meet Queen Elizabeth, the queen does appear in scenes with other characters. This particular entry in the series focuses on the mysterious death of the steward at Appleton Manor, childhood home of Susanna’s (for the most part) absent husband. Sir Robert Appleton is an intelligence gatherer for the Crown.
FACE DOWN UPON AN HERBAL (1998) is set at Christmas 1561. Susanna’s “Cautionary Herbal” on poisonous plants has been published and as a result the queen sends Sir Walter Pendennis, one of Sir Robert Appleton’s colleagues, to request that she assist in the completion of another herbal . . . and do a little sleuthing on the side. All characters who appear in the text are fictitious, although both Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots are just offstage.
FACE DOWN AMONG THE WINCHESTER GEESE (1999) is set in 1563. The plot revolves around a serial killer who has been murdering prostitutes in Southwark at the rate of one a year, with a subplot involving Sir Robert’s involvement in a scheme to kidnap Lady Mary Grey, who makes an appearance late in the story. Another real person with a walk-on role is Johanne Turnbull, hostess at the Crowne Inn.
FACE DOWN BENEATH THE ELEANOR CROSS (2000) is set in 1565 and involves Sir Robert’s return from the dead just in time to be murdered. Susanna is arrested for the crime and must stand trial. Her friends rally to find the real killer. I did a great deal of research into the realities of law enforcement and the legal process. As unbelievable as some of these details are, they have all been verified. Elizabeth Brooke, marchioness of Northampton, has a small role in the story, and Lady Mary Grey returns, albeit briefly.
and here is the artwork I commissioned from artist Linda Weatherly S. for the large print edition of this book:
FACE DOWN UNDER THE WYCH ELM (2000) is set in 1567 and once again the real witch trials of Tudor England influence the plot but the characters are entirely fictional. Susanna’s efforts to help accused witches put her in jeopardy of being charged with the same crime.
FACE DOWN BEFORE REBEL HOOVES (2001) is set in 1569 and this one very much involves real Tudor women since it is set during the rebellion of the Northern Earls. Jane Howard, Countess of Westmorland and Anne Somerset, Countess of Northumberland are front and center in the plot when Susanna goes undercover at the request of Sir Walter Pendennis.
FACE DOWN ACROSS THE WESTERN SEA (2002) is set in 1571. The plot, which involves a scholarly attempt to establish England’s claim to the New World by tracing its discovery back before Columbus, features several real Tudor men as characters but no real sixteenth-century women.
FACE DOWN BELOW THE BANQUETING HOUSE (2005) is set in 1573. Queen Elizabeth appears in this one, but not in a scene with Susanna, who always avoids going to court. Her home, Leigh Abbey in Kent, is on the list of places the queen intends to visit on progress, but when a body is discovered below the banqueting house purpose built for that visit, plans change.
FACE DOWN BESIDE ST. ANNE’S WELL (2006) is set in 1575 at the baths at Buxton, Derbyshire. Bess of Hardwick and her granddaughter, Elizabeth Pierrepont, appear briefly, and a plot to rescue Mary Queen of Scots from captivity in England is at the center of the story.
FACE DOWN ‘OER THE BORDER (2007) is set in 1577 and takes place in Scotland. Annabella Moray or Murray, Countess of Mar is not in the Who’s Who, but she plays an important role in the story.
MURDERS AND OTHER CONFUSIONS (2004) is a collection of short stories featuring Lady Appleton and her friends. The settings range from 1552 to 1577.
Titles written as Kate Emerson in the “Secrets of the Tudor Court” series are all set, at least in part, at the court of Henry VIII. Each one features a fictionalized version of a real Tudor woman as the protagonist and contains numerous other characters based on real women. These characters are listed (with short biographies) at the end of each book. Below, with one exception, I’ve listed only the protagonist of each book.
THE PLEASURE PALACE (2009)—Jane Popyncourt
BETWEEN TWO QUEENS (2010)—Anne Bassett
BY ROYAL DECREE (2010)—Elizabeth Brooke, Lady Northampton.
This is a medallion showing Bess Brooke in profile.
AT THE KING’S PLEASURE (2012)—Lady Anne Stafford, Lady Hastings.
The portrait of Lady Anne Stafford, Lady Hastings, was painted by Ambrosius Bensoen around 1535. It is owned by the St. Louis Art Museum and is listed by Wikimedia Commons as being in the public domain.
THE KING’S DAMSEL (2012)—an unnamed “damsel” at the court of Henry VIII who is alleged to have had an affair with the king. I created an entirely fictional name and background for this character but used a supporting cast made up of real people, including Anne Boleyn, Jane Parker Boleyn, Mary Boleyn, Margaret Bacon Butts, Catherine of Aragon, Cecily Dabridgecourt, Mary Dannett, Mary Fitzherbert, Lady Catherine Gordon, Elizabeth Holland, Mary, Princess of Wales, Margaret Plantagenet Pole, Anne Rede, Anne Savage, Jane Seymour, Margaret Shelton, Mary Victoria, and Joan North Wilkinson.
ROYAL INHERITANCE (2013)—Audrey (or Ethelreda) Malte
Returning to my Face Down world with a spinoff series, I wrote three books featuring Rosamond Appleton, Mistress Jaffrey, illegitimate daughter of Lady Appleton’s late, unlamented husband.
MURDER IN THE QUEEN’S WARDROBE (2014) is a mystery set in 1582/3. Real Tudor women who appear include Lady Mary Hastings, Catherine Dudley, Countess of Huntingdon, and Jane Richards Bomelius. The action takes place at court and in Muscovy, where Rosamond’s young husband has gone adventuring.
MURDER IN THE MERCHANT’S HALL (2015) is a mystery set in 1583. A fictionalized version of Black Luce of Clerkenwell is a secondary character.
MURDER IN A CORNISH ALEHOUSE (2016) is a mystery set in 1584. A fictionalized version of Honor Piers, daughter of the land pirate Anne Piers, appears as a secondary character.
THE FINDER OF LOST THINGS (2020) is set in 1590/1 and takes Blanche Wainfleet (the Finder of the title) from Colchester gaol to a manor house in Essex with a hidden room, to a merchant’s house in London, all in pursuit of justice for her murdered sister. One real woman who appears in the story is Cecily Hopton, who secretly aided Catholic prisoners in the Tower of London when her father was Lord Lieutenant there. Since the story also involves accusations of witchcraft, a number of stories about real witches (published in chapbooks of the time) are included in discussions the characters have on the subject. Part of the plot is loosely based on the experiences of Sarah Williams, who was exorcised for demon possession while living in a Catholic household.
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