A surprise second post of the night! With all of the hurricane nonsense we had to put up with, doing any website work was hard. We were without power for about 55 hours!
Anyway, this extract comes from Natalie, who has written a YA novel called Emmie and the Tudor King. Reading this, I can’t help but smile, thinking about how often I have day dreamed about being at court.
Also, can we please all note how BEAUTIFUL the cover is?!
A bit about the novel,
In this reimagining of Tudor history, Nick Tudor isn’t just from a different city; he’s from a different century. He’s also a reigning Tudor king, practically engaged, and destined to become ‘Nicholas the Ironheart’ – one of history’s most infamous tyrants. All excellent reasons why eighteen-year-old Emmie Grace from modern-day Massachusetts shouldn’t fall crazy in love with him or try to save him from his dreadful fate. But when Emmie unearths an ancient ring that magically transports her back to Tudor England and the real court of Nicholas the Ironheart, she finds herself falling for its doomed and insanely-wrong-for-her king, while fighting to stay alive when beheadings were way more popular than time travelers.
Emmie and the Tudor King
When I looked up again, an enormous high brick wall was heading right for us, flags of red, blue, and gold whipping in the wind. The castle stretched on forever as we sailed to the wharf. Boys in caps grasped ropes in readiness.
Three figures in billowy dresses gathered at the end of a raised dock. I hopped off the boat and slowly climbed the stairs to approach them, the ground still swimming.
A woman in a high-necked gown stepped forward, an ebony hood framing three rows of gray curls above her ears. A diamond centipede necklace with rubies for eyes circled her collar.
“Mistress Emmeline Grace?” Her voice was croaky; her accent right out of a posh costume drama.
“Actually, it’s just Emmie,” I said with a nervous wobble.
Her white-powdered cheeks barely moved. “Good morrow to you. I am Margaret Beaumont, the Countess of Warwick. I have been requested to welcome you to court.”
“Dowager Countess,” breathed a girl behind her with olive skin and dark wavy hair flowing to her waist.
The countess didn’t seem to hear her, presenting me with a weathered hand that smelled like potpourri. Her bumpy gold ring nipped my finger as she squeezed. “Henceforth, you will call me Madam. May I present my daughter, the Lady Isobel Beaumont.” She gestured to a stony-faced girl with wheaten hair beautifully plaited under a pearled hood. “And this is Mistress Alice Grey.”
“Good morrow,” I said with a small wave. I’m speaking Shakespearean!
Alice was the one who’d said ‘dowager countess’. Her face was plain but pretty, with warm eyes the color of gingerbread.
They walked fast down a passageway decorated with rich cloth, their long skirts making them look like they were gliding. My dowdy cloak was a total cringe-fest beside their pearl-lined gowns, but at least it hid my limp. We stepped outside again into a courtyard buzzing with carts and wagons, men with swords swinging from their waists swirling past like the pages of a history book.
“Your father did not bring you to court to announce you?” the Dowager Countess of Warwick croaked as we approached a huge building with a gabled roof.
“Uh, not likely.”
Alice giggled, jeweled hearts dangling from her ears. She pulled a pouch of sugared almonds from her purse and offered me one. I took it, my hollow stomach grateful. A man strolled by with a hawk on his shoulder, nodding to the countess in greeting.
“I understand your father is a physician from Hatfield,” the countess said to me, sounding progressively more irritated.
“Right. Doctor Martin Grace.” News travels fast in the old world. Take that, internet.
“Where did your father study?” asked Isobel in a girlish voice.
She walked like she was on a catwalk, her ocean-blue dress embroidered with a peacock tail in full display.
I scrambled for the names of England’s oldest universities. “Oxford.”
“Oh, my cousin is a professor there,” she replied. “Charles Beaumont.”
My face ignited. “Oxford is where he wanted to go, but he ended up at Cambridge.”
Isobel scoffed. “Cambridge men hold nothing against Oxford.”
“Well, my father is a Cambridge alumnus, and he is a shameful failure,” said Alice with notable sarcasm. “Which college was yours in?” she asked me.
“I always forget.” I tapped my skull. “It’s temperamental.”
She frowned and laughed at the same time. I knew I was acting slightly idiotic, but after the terrifying Tower of London, it felt like I’d wandered into a fairytale.
I could hear Mia’s capable voice in my head, instructing me to become a quick study on the University of Cambridge, not to mention formal pleasantries and how to twist my hair into a halo braid…whatever it took to survive here while I hunted down that blue-diamond ring which could hopefully get me back home.
We passed under a sprawling archway painted with a sun garnished with a gold crown and the letters NR, entering the grandest building on the lot. My eyes took a moment to adjust to the dark corridor, which smelled like old herbs. Men wearing feathered caps huddled in hushed conversation, while others strode solo with an urgent pace. We crossed through several rooms with paneled walls and painted floors laid with rushes before reaching a gigantic hall lit with hundreds of candles. Practically every wall was adorned with shimmering gold hangings and vibrant tapestries of battle scenes, biblical stories, and mythological creatures. Sunlight seeped through stained glass windows curtained with crimson satin, warming the floor of black-and-white squares. The hammerbeam ceiling was an art masterpiece in itself, its gleaming golden beams intersected with cobalt blue arches.
Alice leaned into me, cinnamon finding my nose. “The first time I saw it, I must have soaked my skirts. But, then again, I was four.” She giggled.
The roaring flames inside the cavernous fireplace didn’t cut through the cold air. I crossed my arms inside my cloak.
“His Majesty the King!” cried a voice.
Trumpets blasted from the minstrels’ gallery, bodies all around us spiraling into bows. Alice folded elegantly forward, her arms outstretched like a ballerina’s.
And then all the air escaped my body like a popped balloon.
The beautiful boy from the Tower stood in the archway, bounded by a sea of bending bodies. A line of guards behind him scanned the crowd like the secret service. The boy’s eyes locked onto mine, one brow lifting. Alice tugged my dress hard.
I dropped into a clumsy curtsy, my heart hammering.
He was too young to be a king—too gorgeous. Kings were old and obese or had mean faces like Nicholas the Ironheart. Mia would call this guy the King of Pants-Dropping Hotness.
When I stood back up, he was sauntering right to us and Isobel was shuffling from one foot to another. The king walked with a swift elegance, all long legs and broad shoulders. The Dowager Countess of Warwick kissed his jeweled fingers as
gentle chatter resumed around us. Every eye was on the king.
“I trust you have had a fine morning, my lady countess,” he said in that velvety voice that sucked strength from my legs.
“Delightful, Majesty, thank you. The lutenist performed a lovely tune in the south garden.” She smiled, exposing three black teeth.
The king tipped his head slightly. “Lady Isobel…Mistress Grey.” There couldn’t be a girl at court who wasn’t in love with him. His eyes moved to mine. “And this is?”
I felt the surprise overcome my face.
“Oh, this is Mistress Emmeline Grace,” the countess rasped.
The way the king blinked at me blankly made me understand how quickly I’d been forgotten. “Doctor Martin Grace’s daughter, visiting from Hatfield,” she added. “I cannot say his work is familiar.”
“I was not aware you are an authority on physicians,” he said coolly.
“Certainly not.” She curtsied, blushing through her white face paint. “That is a gentleman’s position.”
A pair of men approached the king with feathered caps in their hands, but a bald-headed guard rebuffed them. The king never moved his eyes from mine.
“I trust you will enjoy my court, Mistress Grace. You are in fine and gracious company.”
My voice barely registered. “Thank you.”
The king held his hand out to me in invitation. I dropped into a shallow bow until my wound pinched and took his fingers, nervously pressing my lips to the back of his hand. His skin smelled like a bouquet of roses. Slowly, his warm fingers curled into mine, cold metal touching my bottom lip. My eyes opened, meeting the blue-diamond ring glistening from the king’s finger. The room started to spin. When I rose back up, his eyes steadied me, entrancing and curious.
The Dowager Countess of Warwick pushed Isobel forward. “The Lady Isobel and I are greatly anticipating your blessed companionship this evening,” said the countess.
“I do hope we may share a dance,” Isobel said in a strange, stilted tone.
“I regret your late husband cannot join us himself,” the king said to the countess. “He would be immensely proud of this occasion.”
“Indeed.” She dropped into another curtsy.
He continued past us as hurriedly as he’d arrived, not so much as glancing back. I turned to watch him stride right out of the hall, my stomach as tight as a fist.
Great, I have to steal a ring from a king. A ring that’s probably some major family heirloom. He’s likely one of the grandsons of Nicholas the Ironheart. Are they all time travelers? Dating back to freaking Edward the Confessor?
“Mother, we should reconsider the jewelry,” Isobel said, looking ashen. “Something less tiresome than diamonds. He is wearing none himself this day.”
“What His Majesty is tired of is your impertinent behavior! Fancy asking the king to dance with you in public.” The Dowager Countess of Warwick shook her head, rattling her tight gray curls. “We must practice again. In haste.” She shot me an icy look before hurrying Isobel away.
Alice grinned and took my arm in a way that reminded me so much of Mia it hurt. We continued down the center of the hall, where servants lugged in trestle tables while men pored over card games and papers.
“This is the Great Hall,” Alice explained proudly. “Where we dine, where His Majesty’s most esteemed guests are received, and where the celebratory feast is happening this night. My father was the one who proposed the new peace treaty with France on behalf of the king.” Her voice danced with excitement. “You should absolutely attend this evening; the king encourages maidens of the court to join the feastings.”
But I was only half listening as I gazed up at the colossal painting eclipsing the far wall. The portrait was of a grim, bearded man wearing a flat cap and navy coat, a blue-diamond ring shimmering from his third finger. It was the exact painting from Mia’s book.
“Who is that?” I said, my chest seizing.
“Our beloved King Nick, of course,” said Alice. “He does not look at all like his portrait, does he? Although no one dares point that out to him; I think he likes it.”
I clutched my stomach, stopping it from crashing to the floor.
That gentle, breathtaking boy who’d saved my life in the Tower wasn’t a descendent of Nicholas the Ironheart. He was Nicholas the Ironheart. One of the cruelest, most fearsome kings in history.
And I’d lied to his face about everything.