Karen Harper

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Karen Harper, author of novels of suspense set in past and present

Historical

THE QUEEN ELIZABETH I MYSTERY SERIES IS NOW AVAILABLE IN AUDIO!
See below for information on how to order.

A HISTORICAL MYSTERY SET IN THE EARLY TUDOR COURT:

MISTRESS OF MOURNING

A GRIPPING NEW HISTORICAL MYSTERY.  TWO WOMEN FIGHT TO DEFEAT THE ENEMIES OF THE PRECARIOUS TUDOR MONARCHY BY UNCOVERING THE SECRETS OF THE DEAD…

London, 1501.  In a time of political unrest, Varina Westcott, a young widow and candlemaker for court and church agrees to perform a clandestine service for Queen Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII.  She will carve wax figures of four dead children:  two of Elizabeth’s offspring lost in infancy and her two brothers, the Princes in the Tower, whose mysterious disappearance years ago has never been solved.  Having lost a child herself, Varina feels a sympathetic bond with the queen.  As she works under the watchful eye of handsome Nicholas Sutton, an ambitious assistant to the royals, she develops feelings of quite a different nature.

Then from Wales comes news of the unexpected death of newly married Prince Arthur, the queen’s eldest child and heir to the throne.  Deeply grieved, Elizabeth suspects that Arthur did not die of a sudden illness, but was cleverly murdered by her husband’s enemies.  This time her task for Varina and Nicholas is of vital importance—travel to wild Wales to investigate the prince’s death.  But as the couple unearths one unsettling clue after another, they begin to fear that the conspiracy they’re confronting is more far-reaching than even the queen imagined.  And it aims to utterly destroy the new Tudor dynasty. 

I had great fun writing MISTRESS OF MOURNING, not only because I love England and the Medieval and Tudor eras (which this novel bridges,) but because the two historical mysteries within have never been solved:  the disappearance of the two young princes in the Tower of London and the strange, sudden death of Arthur, Prince of Wales, older brother to King Henry VIII.  Had Arthur not died, Henry would never have been king. 

Research for this novel also gave me a close up look at Henry VIII’s parents and boyhood.  To understand any man, look at his childhood.  No wonder Henry was paranoid that someone would take his power!  No wonder he was a master manipulator and felt he was always right.  His other later traits are also well-grounded in his past.

I also loved the opportunity to get close to a ‘middle-class’ woman of that time.  Varina is only allowed to run her shop because her husband left it to her in his will.  If she weds again, all she owns goes into the hands of her new husband.  It was not a time of equality of the sexes, but Varina handles the men’s world of her day as best she can. 

MISTRESS OF MOURNING will also be released in the United Kingdom from my British publisher, Random House UK, under the title THE QUEEN’S CONFIDANTE.  To see that very different cover, take a look at it on the British Books page.

Early praise for MISTRESS OF MOURNING

"With impeccable research and just enough romance, bestseller Harper illuminates a part of Tudor history often ignored....Harper writes with effortless prose and an expert take on the era."  Publishers Weekly, June 4, 2012

“The grief of a sister and mother who also happens to be queen of England combines with the fire and spirit of a lovely waxworker in Karen Harper’s riveting tale of just what might have happened to the princes in the tower and the first Tudor crown prince.” –Karleen Koen, New York Times bestselling author of Through a Glass Darkly and Before Versailles.

“Beloved author Karen Harper brings Elizabeth of York to vivid life in Mistress of Mourning.  Through the eyes of charming and adventurous wax chandler, Varina Westcott, the tumultuous era of the new-born Tudor dynasty is depicted as it surely was—a time rife with danger, passion and murder.  The exciting story and its appealing heroine kept me reading late into the night with sheer enjoyment.”  --Sandra Worth, author of Pale Rose of England and The Queen’s Daughter.

“Much like her endearing chandler heroine, Varina, Karen Harper warmly illuminates a little-explored craft and two persistent royal mysteries, skillfully melding the hearts and lives of the high and low born.  Mistress of Mourning delivers adventure, romance, and surprise; a fresh cache of treasure for devoted Tudorphiles, the book is also certain to enchant readers new to the era’s charms.” –Sandra Byrd, author of To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn.

“This Tudor-era tale, which tackles a mystery that is unsolved to this day, is rich with details of royal life, London and the guilds prominent at that time… Varina…assists in the investigation with courage, wit and common sense.”  RT Book Reviews

 

The Queen's Governess Cover
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READER’S GUIDE AND BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION QUESTIONS ARE INCLUDED IN THE QUEEN’S GOVERNESS

The Irish Princess Cover


The Irish Princess

February 1, 2011
Trade Paperback
Putnam Adult
978-0451232823
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Reputed to be Elizabeth Fitzgerald Clinton, Countess of Lincoln.
Reputed to be Elizabeth Fitzgerald Clinton, Countess of Lincoln.

The Irish Princess
Karen Harper, NAL, $15 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-451-23282-3

Torn from Ireland and her defeated family, Elizabeth (Gera) Fitzgerald, “the uncrowned princess of Ireland,” dares to defy the powerful Tudors in her quest for revenge.  But Gera finds love with a bold Tudor sea captain and discovers that Mary and Elizabeth Tudor are sometimes at odds with their royal father, Henry VIII, too.  From Ireland’s lush fields to the glittering royal court of England, this is the story of a daring woman whose will cannot be tamed.

Coronation Portrait
of Elizabeth 1

"Harper (Mistress Shakespeare) is in fine form, using strong-willed Irish noblewoman Elizabeth Fitzgerald, known to history as the Fair Geraldine, to explore the court of the aging Henry VIII and the brutal political struggles of the time. Raised in a family at the center of the struggle for Irish home rule, young Gera flees to England as most of her relatives are imprisoned or executed. Entering court politics first as a lady-in-waiting to Henry's doomed fifth queen and later wife to highly placed courtier Sir Anthony Browne, her desire for revenge and the reinstatement of her family is balanced by respect for the disinherited princesses Mary and Elizabeth, care for her husband's position, and her secret attraction to seagoing nobleman Edward Clinton. Tudor fans will enjoy this skillfully fleshed-out tale of an adventurous young woman coming-of-age inside a court constantly on edge. (Feb.)"
-- Publishers' Weekly, Dec. 06, 2010

FINDING THE IRISH PRINCESS

It was partly a trip to Ireland and partly my stumbling on an intriguing woman while I was researching another book that pointed my way to my latest Tudor-era historical novel, THE IRISH PRINCESS.  My husband and I had a wonderful trip to Ireland several years ago.  Although I am an Anglophile at heart and am a product of English and Scottish heritage (I even did Scottish Highland Dancing for years), I fell in love with Ireland and the Irish. 

The Earl of Lincoln (then known as Lord Clinton) by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1534–1535.

Of course we did all the usual stops:  kissed the Blarney stone—all authors are, of necessity, full of blarney.  We visited Cardiff Castle, did the Ring of Kerry, and toured old Dublin town where I walked into a bookstore that actually carried my books.  But at that time, although I looked for an Irish heroine as a hook for a book, I didn’t find one.

But later when I was researching Queen Elizabeth I’s ladies-in-waiting for THE QUEEN’S GOVERNESS, I stumbled on the fact she had a long-time Irish friend, a celebrated beauty, at that.  The poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, had written a poem extolling ‘the Fair Geraldine,’ a woman named Elizabeth (nickname Gera) Fitzgerald, whose family had been called “the uncrowned kings of Ireland” and had been brutally ruined by King Henry VIII.

What gives, I thought.  Elizabeth Tudor mistrusted the Irish.  Beautiful women around her (and another redhead!) always made her nervous.  Was this another example of the unspoken Tudor practice that, if a powerful family threatens your throne, kill off the men and keep the women close so you can keep an eye on them? 

Countess of Lincoln.
Another portrait of Elizabeth Fitzgerald Clinton, Countess of Lincoln.

But then I found what I call “a telling detail” about the these two Elizabeths.  The queen once sent Gera Fitzgerald to the Tower for ‘plainspeaking to the queen.’  Yet Gera was released almost immediately and was back in the queen’s good graces.  Stranger yet, at least once, Gera commanded a ship which captured pirates who were taking French ships and giving the queen a bad name.

Aha, I had to write a book about this Irish woman, the “uncrowned princess of Ireland.”  What a dynamic woman she must have been.  And to top it off, I found she had a bittersweet romance (yes, with a happy ending, a sine qua non for me) with a dashing, swashbuckling English hero, Edward Clinton, the Lord High Admiral of the English Navy.  Look out Johnny Depp!

But research wasn’t easy.  I had to “find” Gera in books about other people.  With the exception of her once hated rival and later longtime friend Elizabeth Tudor, I discovered Gera’s story through reading about the men whose lives she touched:  her husband, her father and her brother whose rebellion brought the wrath of the Tudors down on her family and Ireland.

Of course, I’m writing faction, basing the book on fact but fictionalizing what I cannot find.  But I believe I stayed true to the real woman, and I was pleased to see that Gera’s defiant face on the cover of THE IRISH PRINCESS is very close to her extant portraits.  Happy historical reading!

Karen





January 21, 2010
Hardcover
Putnam Adult
978-0399156182
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I am a life-long, avid anglophile and fan of all things Tudor.  (Yes, I even watch The Tudors on Showtime, though I would take me hours to list all the historical inaccuracies in the series.)  But in my reading, I always noticed a fascinating personality who seemed to stay in the background but who was, in a way, the power behind Elizabeth’s throne—Katherine “Kat” Champernowne Ashley, the queen’s governess.  And, since Elizabeth lost her mother at age three and did not remember her, Kat was what we would call today the queen’s foster mother.

I had included Kat as a secondary character in my QUEEN ELIZABETH I MYSTERY SERIES (9 books, still available in paperback from on-line book sites,) but I wondered about the mystery of Kat’s life.  And so began years of research to find the real Kat Ashley.  She was part of the tumultuous lives not only of Elizabeth Tudor but of her infamous mother, Anne Boleyn.  I begin Kat’s story with Anne’s beheading and backtrack to Kat’s early life.  As Elizabeth says in the novel, “Anne Boleyn gave me life, but Kat Ashley gave me love.”

THE QUEEN’S GOVERNESS is a Kat’s-eye-view of one of the most turbulent and tragic families in history, the amazing, terrible Tudors.  But Kat has her own tale of betrayal, love and loss to tell.  Reviews and other information will be posted here as pub date approaches.  Like all my books, this novel is also available in e-book format.

From Pubisher's Weekly, November 23, 2009:

"Katherine Ashley is the daughter of a country squire with no hope of a future, until a chance meeting with Thomas Cromwell gets her sent to Henry VIII's court as a waiting gentlewoman to Queen Anne Boleyn and a spy for Cromwell. When Boleyn comes to an untimely end, Ashley becomes tutor and servant to her daughter, Elizabeth, and accompanies the girl throughout her trials and tribulations before she finally takes her father's throne and goes on to become England's greatest queen. Rarely does a work of historical fiction endeavor to cover so much territory—Ashley lives through the reigns of four Tudors—but Harper's diligent research, realistic portrayal, and insider/outsider heroine will hook those who can't get enough of England's turbulent history. Readers familiar with the period will feel at home and even manage some sympathy for men like Cromwell and Henry VIII. Still, bestseller Harper (Mistress Shakespeare) maintains her focus on the roles of women—both powerful and powerless—in Tudor England, resulting in another enjoyable proto-feminist historical romp."


“So vivid and authentic—a totally satisfying recreation of one of the great Shakespeare mysteries.  I couldn’t put it down.”
   --Rosalind Miles, author of I, Elizabeth and Guinevere

“Harper…knows her period well, and it shows…often in sure handling of the details of politics, theater, and daily life, including some harrowing passages featuring childbirth and the plague.”
   --Booklist

“The novels chief pleasures derive from the easy interaction of Shakespeare’s work, the history of Elizabethan England and the life that the author imagines Shakespeare might have had.”
    --Publisher’s Weekly

“In a wonderful, lively, insightful and heartbreaking love story, Harper allows Shakespeare’s secret wife, Anne Whateley, to narrate her colorful, lusty story.  With her sharp eye for detail and dialogue, Harper delivers a tale that resounds with the color and atmosphere of life in the theater,   London and the intrigues that ran rampant in England.”
   --RT, 4/1/2 stars

Interview for MISTRESS SHAKESPEARE at http://www.book-club-queen.com/mistress-shakespeare.html




The Choice

Not every ebook retailer offers customers a chance to pre-order a digital edition before it goes on sale. For the retailers that do I’ve provided links below for Karen Harper’s THE CHOICE.

A note about the Apple link: it isn’t a buy link, just a webpage that shows the work is available for preorder. You have to own an apple device and download the ibooks app to make any purchases there. The author may still want to post it.

Amazon
B&N
Apple

Dear Reader:

I’m pleased to be able to share with you this historical novella set in Baltimore in the heady days of America’s growing trade with China, when that country posed many dangers to outsiders. Sound similar to the situation today? It always amazes me how historical stories can seem so current. Of course, what never goes out of style are life-changing choices such as what work to pursue and whom to marry. In that respect this story seems timeless as Violet McClellan and Nathan Stone struggle through their relationship and agonize over a possible future together.

The Choice first appeared in the spring of 1995 as “Violets Are Blue” in an anthology entitled Blossoms, with stories by four other authors. Each one tied somehow to the beauty of flowers. Lilies play a key part in The Choice, and I named my heroine Violet for the color of her eyes. The hero is what we might call today an entrepreneur or foreign trader. I have always been fascinated by sailing ships, and the fastest vehicles on the planet at that time were the beautiful clipper ships which opened up the lucrative trade to the Orient—but at the cost of great danger and risk.

Baltimore of the 1830s may seem a long way from Tudor England––which is the focus of my next full-length historical novel, The Queen’s Governess, coming in August 2011––but people are people in any time or place, with the same anxieties and needs and desires. The Queen’s Governess is the story of the woman who rose from obscurity to become the governess and substitute mother to Queen Elizabeth I, and it also teems with danger and life-changing decisions. As ever in my books, it includes a rousing love story and guarantees a happy ending.

I hope you will find a great escape in my fiction and take something precious for your own life from these stories.

Sincerely,
Karen Harper


For a printable list of Karen Harper's Books,
click here for PDF or here for Word format.

HISTORICAL NOVELS


The Last Boleyn
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The First Princess of Wales
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THE QUEEN ELIZABETH I MYSTERY SERIES

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Photo of Karen Harper by Jeffrey A. Rycus

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