Read Mistress of Mourning by Karen Harper Online


In a gripping historical novel of suspense and romance from the national bestselling author of The Queen's Governess, 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 candle maker for court and church, agrees to perform a clandestinIn a gripping historical novel of suspense and romance from the national bestselling author of The Queen's Governess, 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 candle maker for court and church, agrees to perform a clandestine service for Queen Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII--carve wax figures of four dead children, two of her offspring lost in infancy and her two brothers, the Princes of the Tower, whose mysterious disappearance years ago has never been solved. Having lost a child herself, Varina feels a sympathetic bond with the queen. And 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 news comes from Wales of the unexpected death of newly married Prince Arthur, the queen’s eldest child and heir to the throne. Deeply grieving, Elizabeth suspects that Arthur did not die of a sudden illness, as reported, but was actually murdered by her husband’s enemies. This time her task for Varina and Nicholas is of vital importance--travel into the Welsh wilderness 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 far more ambitious and treacherous than even the queen imagined. And it aims to utterly destroy the Tudor dynasty....

Title : Mistress of Mourning
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780451236906
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 416 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Mistress of Mourning Reviews

  • Orsolya
    2019-06-14 05:46

    WINNER OF GR GIVEAWAYEven with all the Tudor hoopla; little seems to be known about Elizabeth of York, the mother of Henry VIII. Karen Harper’s “Mistress of Mourning” attempts to offer an insight into Elizabeth’s view of the disappearance of her princely brothers and of the death her son, Arthur. “Mistress of Mourning” instantly off put my reading satisfaction by introducing the character of Varina Wescott with nothing more than elementary flair. Instead of “living” through or even with Varina; Harper spends too much time simply telling the character’s back story instead of following a natural, developmental arch. Furthermore, there is no gripping factor surrounding Varina and therefore the reader never truly roots for her throughout the novel. Plus, Varina lacks vigor, is very one dimensional, and has thoughts which remind me of an annoying teenager. Basically, her character isn’t solid or overly accessible and/or likable.Harper does try to supplement this character by presenting “Mistress of Mourning” with alternating view points/storytelling by Varina and Elizabeth of York. Although Harper successfully distinguishes between the two voices which sets them a part (Elizabeth possesses way more poise than Varina); the swaps occur too often which prevents the reader from truly getting to know one character from another. It almost felt like Harper had two separate book ideas with each being unfinished and decided to try to combine them. On a positive note, “Mistress of Mourning” was interesting when explaining the art form of candle making and wax effigies. Harper clearly did her research and sparks curiosity to the topic. The Tudor elements, however, are somewhat bland (although they include some accurate facts); and make Elizabeth of York seem crazy in her quest for answers to the mystery surrounding her brothers and Arthur’s death. The entire novel is unbelievable and is a case example of a good idea with poor execution. The romance between Varina and Nicholas Sutton lacks intensity, growth, and chemistry; while the mystery elements are plain ridiculous and obviously untrue. There are several, “Are you serious?!” moments. Plus, “Mistress of Mourning” is very rushed with the feeling that something of substance will happen but it never does. For those who enjoy literary language and illustrious settings… you won’t find that here. Those are missing elements, as well. Also unbelievable (and extremely grating) were the love scenes between Varina and Nicholas. Again, not only did they lack chemistry and feel forced but also were comparable to a high school-level couple. I would have even preferred a Fabio romance at this point!Although seemingly small details, I couldn’t stand Varina CONSTANTLY having “tears in her eyes” (which depleted her characterization even more); or the fact that the characters called the King and Queen “Your Majesty” when that title wasn’t in use until the time of Henry VIII. The conclusion of the novel is anti-climatic, predictable, and too “happily ever after”. This will certainly upset those readers who were by now annoyed with the already poor book.“Mistress of Mourning” is barely above a fairy tale with fantastical ghosts, witches, etc. It is hardly a historical fiction novel and much too high on the fluff ladder. I am not a fan of Harper’s Queen Elizabeth mini-series (I only read one because it was so terrible), yet “Mistress of Mourning” is even worse. Truly only recommended for those not seeking any depth or historical credibility. Had I not won this on GR, I would have not been inclined to finish it.

  • Rio (Lynne)
    2019-06-19 04:37

    I got halfway through and skipped to the author's notes. I don't think this one is for me. I knew it would be light HF and I liked the idea that it covered Elizabeth of York's years as Queen (something new) but I didn't realize this was going to be a far fetched mystery. It started off fresh with the main character (Varina) in her wax shop missing her son, who had passed away. A suitor was pursuing her, which she wasn't thrilled with and then Nicholas walked into her store with a Royal request. She was to make wax effigies of the Queen's 2 dead children and her 2 dead brothers (The Princes in The Tower.) OK, to me it got a little hokey here, but I was willing to roll with it. Then a death occurs to someone associated with Varina, then Arthur The Prince of Wales dies and it's a full fledged "Who Done It?" I'm not into mysteries, so it could be me, but this story isn't serious at all. Even though I kept telling myself to keep a mind set that this was supposed to be a fun, light mystery, it just wasn't working. The Queen sends Varina and Nicholas to Wales to try and find out who killed Arthur (Yeah, OK) because he was murdered, by possibly the person who killed Varina's associate and the one who has been chasing Varina. I skipped to the author's notes. She said it's a mystery to this day how Arthur died. (view spoiler)[ He was possibly murdered by his own father (seriously, haven't heard that one!) or by the person who killed The Princes in The Tower. This was just a bit extreme for me and I couldn't roll with it any further. (hide spoiler)]

  • Erin
    2019-05-26 09:49

    Find the enhanced version of this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....Can I be honest? I think it helped that I didn’t have any expectations going into this one. I was excited about the premise of Karen Harper’s Mistress of Mourning but because I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about the book, I wasn’t upset that it fell on the lighter side of historic fiction. The story isn’t bad, I just think if I’d been craving a hard hitting historic piece as is more my norm, this one would have left me wanting.The characters fit the time period which is more than I can say for a lot of published works. Varina is a great example in that she is possessed of an independent streak yet she isn’t so modern minded as to seem inappropriate in Tudor England. Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Arthur and Catherine read a little flat for my tastes but as they are largely supporting characters it is something I’m willing to overlook. Really the only character I didn’t like was young Henry VIII. I think Harper allowed history to dictate her storytelling a little. Just once I’d love to see an author downplay the younger Tudor prince and really guide the reader towards Arthur. Here, as with most if not all the Tudor fiction I’ve read, the Prince of Wales gets less face time with the reader and though his death is key to the plot, his character is largely overshadowed by the Duke of York.I really liked what Harper did with Arthur’s death in terms of resolving the circumstances of his demise but I wasn't as thrilled with the story of Elizabeth’s brothers. Harper started out strong, interweaving the two storylines but the finale left me feeling ‘eh.’ Maybe it was too much to tie together. Maybe it was because we never got into our villain’s head or really understood his motivations. Maybe I’m bias in that I am unconsciously comparing Mistress in Mourning to Robin Maxwell’s To the Tower Born. Maybe I just feel the latter solution seemed anticlimactic against the drama of Arthur’s situation. Whatever the reason I think the combined plots were a little too much for Harper to take on.Finally, I don’t think Harper played the setting to its best advantage. I’ve read books featuring Ludlow before and I’ve seen an author bring this particular setting to life. Guess I’m just a little sad that Harper seemed to let it fall by the way side. Researching is easy; anyone can look up the historic notes on a particular place and time. To my mind, the key in fictionalizing the past is not simply recreating people or events, the same care needs to be taken in re-imagining the world they inhabit. There isn't anything wrong or particularly upsetting in what Harper achieved here, I've just think there is room to improve. As always I would like to note that I’m harder on historic fiction writers than I am authors of any other genre. They are my favorite storytellers and so I hold them to a slightly higher standard. My commentary here comes off as nitpicky and critical but I really did enjoy Harper’s work and look forward to reading more of it in the future.

  • Susan (susayq ~)
    2019-05-30 03:34

    One of my favorite periods of history is the War of the Roses and the Tudor Dynasty that starts after. In this book we have Elizabeth the Good, wife of Henry VII, who is grieving the loss of two of her children and her perceived part in the loss of her brothers, the Princes who were lost in the Tower. Elizabeth hires Varina Westcott to make wax effigies of them and ends up enlisting her to help discover if her son, Prince Arthur, was killed. Varina falls in love with Nick, who helps her in her hunt for the truth. Just so you know, they do get their HEA ;) If you like this time period, this is a great theory on what happened to the Princes :)

  • Kara
    2019-06-14 08:57

    Too modern, too chatty, too light, too ridiculous, too scattered, too bad.

  • Audra (Unabridged Chick)
    2019-06-22 02:32

    Set squarely in the world of 16th century merchants, our heroine, Varina Westcott, is a young widow with a thriving candle-making business. Mourning the loss of her infant son, Varina devotes her time to making beautiful, lifelike angel candles which are sold illicitly as she isn’t a member of the city’s powerful candle-making guild. As if fending off her predatory suitor isn't challenge enough, she accepts a mysterious commission from the royal palace, which, unsurprisingly, has an enormous impact on her life.Her client is none other than Queen Elizabeth of York, the wife of Henry VII. Still grieving the untimely deaths of her brothers -- the infamous princes in the Tower -- as well as her two infant children, Elizabeth finds in Varina a kindred spirit. But Varina’s seemingly simple commission -- to design wax effigies of Elizabeth's dead kin -- transforms into a more challenging job when Varina is asked to investigate the sudden and mysterious death of Prince Arthur (as in big brother of Henry VIII). There's a predictable romance that I rather liked with a male love interest who was, I'll admit, kind of dreamy.The novel is split between her first person account and that of Queen Elizabeth, and while I'm not always wild about dual narratives, in this case, it worked. The common loss these two women shared added some depth to this otherwise enjoyably fluffy historical. What sold me on the story, and why I so enjoyed this book, is that Varina worked for me as a heroine -- even when she came dangerously close to that aggravating willful-feisty caricature. She waited out tense situations rather than doing something stupid, for example, and I found her admirable and likeable. (And, yes, I totally want her to be my bestie.)I can't speak to the novel's historical accuracy. Harper's conjecture about who murdered the princes in the Tower and the cause of Arthur's death might not resonate with those who are armchair historians of that era, but since I don't know, I didn't care, and I liked the mix of history, romance, and intrigue.Ultimately, this is the best kind of summer historical fiction: light but not insultingly so, with an obvious romance to counter the dark conspiracy. Tudor fans might enjoy this with it's early Tudor roots; those who like artisans and women-who-do-unusual-jobs will find Harper's candle-making research fascinating.

  • Sarah
    2019-06-20 09:47

    An engrossing read, this book contains a bit of everything. There’s a romance, mystery, historical tidbits, and suspense. The rousing tale of two women caught up in the strictures of grief overcoming it to solve the mystery of who’s gunning for the Tudor dynasty kept me on the edge of my seat. I liked that the author was able to balance the different elements into one streaming and smooth story.I especially liked Varina. She’s got guts, courage, and a caring heart. Though a bit blind at times to the emotions of those surrounding her, she’s an intelligent woman who dedicates herself to serving her Queen and protecting her family and loved ones. I also liked that she was practical in her perceived expectations for her future, yet there was still a bit of the romantic in her to not immediately jump on the first marriage proposal to come her way.There were a ton of neat historical tidbits throughout the story: details of the burial practices of early Tudor England, some of the magic still present in the rural folklore, the role of women in the time period, and the mechanics of running a business in bustling London. Those historical tidbits made for a fun read for any history lover.Yet, there wasn’t much meaty stuff here. The details were fun, yet a lot of stuff seemed a bit far-fetched to me to have actually happened. Elizabeth’s wax effigies in hiding, the lightning fast speed of Nick’s and Varina’s romance, and the varying roles that Varina played all seem a bit out there to me. The hypothesis the author puts forward for why Arthur died and responsible party behind the Princes in the Tower were intriguing, though.A fun read, this book will definitely kill a weekend for you. It’s got some neat historical tidbits, a great lead, and a thrilling plot. And while it may not have a lot of meat on its bones when it comes to historical weight and story, I think this novel would still be very enjoyable for any historical fiction lover.

  • Colleen Turner
    2019-06-24 10:54

    I reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.comThe twisting mysteries throughout Mistress of Mourning were a pleasant surprise as I was expecting a more traditional historical fiction story. Karen Harper presents tiny pieces of the puzzle throughout the narrative with the final pieces not falling into place until the very end. She gives us clear answers to the questions regarding the disappearance of the Princes of the Tower as well as the death of Prince Arthur and even gives reasons why she reached these conclusions in her author notes.Mistress of Mourning alternates between Varina and Queen Elizabeth as narrator and while Varina is by far the larger focus, I found Elizabeth’s point of view to be just as essential to the story. As the daughter, sister, niece and wife to Kings of England, she presents a side to the history unlike any other. Her presentation as a gentle, kind woman who is at the same time manically grieving and determined to find out the truth behind the strange deaths of her loved ones is quite compelling and sorrowful. I have often thought she would make a complex, interesting subject for a novel and that is exactly what this book gives us.This is not my first Karen Harper book and will definitely not be my last. I would recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, mysteries or characters that are multi-faceted and not always what they seem.

  • Rebecca Hill
    2019-06-15 05:34

    What a great read!! Varina Wescott has been sworn to secrecy by Queen Elizabeth of York, having been commissioned to sculpt effigies of her dead children and her missing brothers in the tower. As Varina deals with her overbearing suitor, and her growing affection for Nicholas Sutton, she is trying to figure out many things about herself and her future. When she is asked by Queen Elizabeth to go with Nicholas Sutton to Wales to attend to the body of the Prince, after his untimely death, and to find out if foul play was involved. Death seems to follow Varina. With her business mainly being funerary candles, it is not unlikely, but it also bring it to the forefront for her. She must confront one of her demons to get her son back alive, and she must also attempt to figure out who is trying to kill the King and Queen and their family and why. Will she be successful for not??I loved this book! It was quite interesting, but it also had some historical inaccuracies that as time has now shown are wrong. Being written when it was, some of the facts were not known, but there were also a few issues of guessing. Overall this book was wonderful! It was pretty clean, and the book itself was wonderful. This is one that I would read again!

  • Kathy Filardo
    2019-06-15 04:28

    this was a great book for those who enjoy mysteries set in the Tudor period--specifically Henry VII--and also has intersting insight into the murders of the 2 princes in the Tower and also young Prince Arthur Tuor, who died supposedly of a sudden illness. The book is told from the POV of a young woman chandler/waxmaker named Varina Westcott who is summoned to the palace to work for the Queen Elizabeth of York, who wants her to make wax effigies of her two dead children, one of whom was a baby, and her two lost brothers, presumed murdered by their uncle Richard III. Varina is talented but denied entrance into her local guild because she is a woman, despite running her own shop since she was widowed and also has sympathy for the queen because she too suffered the loss of a child to sickness. Ironically both their lost sons were named Edmund, and Varina has a small boy named Arthur, named for the eldest prince. Varina is quickly enmeshed, through no fault of her own, in a web of intrigue and murder, and made the target of a dangerous man who wishes to topple the Tudors. She forms an alliance with a loyal queen's man named Nicholas Sutton who helps her to investigate the strange happenings. Alongside Varina is Elizabeth of York, a kind and generous queen, the daughter of Edward IV, whose marriage to Henry VIII brought an end to the Cousin's War--what is now called the War of the Roses--between Lancaster and York. Elizabeth is haunted by dreams of failing to protect her two little brothers in the Tower and is determined to find out who killed them, since the actual killers were never found. Oddly enough, her husband doesn't seem too eager to put the murders to rest, and thinks she grieves too much over her dead children and her brothers and so Elizabeth swears Varina and Nicholas to secrecy about the wax effigies. She hides them in a secret room that she says is for her devotions.I was happy to see that Harper doesn't go down the well worn trail of accusing Richard of murdering his nephews, and instead uses deduction and logic to show the possible and more likely suspect of another powerful figure. She also puts forth another interesting mystery in the form of Arthur's death, and shows how precarious the reign of the Tudors was on the throne until Henry VIII, who won the hearts of most of the people in the beginning of his reign.I enjoyed Varina and Elizabeth's POV, the mystery was well done, and so was the romance between Nick and Varina.

  • Regina Azmaria
    2019-06-04 04:49

    Akhirnya, setelah sebulan membaca dengan ogah-ogahan dan diselingi light novel jepang kekinian, aku bisa menamatkan novel ini. Penyebabnya lagi-lagi, kualitas terjemahan yang sungguh mengerikan. Typo dan susunan kalimat yang bagaikan di-copy langsung dari google translate sangat mengganggu saat membaca. Bagi para penerjemah, mohon perhatiannya.Ceritanya sendiri berada di sekitar kehidupan seorang pengukir lilin dan Elizabeth of York. Penulisan dengan menggunakan sudut pandang orang pertama untuk menceritakan kisah dua wanita ini cukup mengganggu sebenarnya, tapi masih dapat dimaklumi. Selain itu penokohan kedua lakon utama ini juga tidak menarik. Satu-satunya yang membuatku bertahan membaca buku ini adalah rasa penasaran tentang apa yang sebenarnya terjadi pada kedua pangeran york di menara london, dan itu pun ditutup dengan kepasrahan ratu saat ajal menjemput. Pengen bilang "cuma gitu doang? terus perjalanan bolak-balik dan kejar-kejaran ala princess diary itu buat apa?"

  • Brooklyn Tayla
    2019-06-18 06:47

    What I liked:– that the main character was initially an outsider from the Tudor Court. – Varina, was a character of many layers. She was proud when she needed to be, and highly heartbroken after the loss of her two children. – The bond between Varina and Elizabeth of York. It was so beautifully written and my favorite part of the book.– The dual perspective between Varina and Elizabeth of York. It was beautifully done and flowed from one narrator to the other clearly.– The characterisation of Elizabeth of York. She was written exactly how I see her as. I loved the intimate and personal scenes between her and Henry Tudor. Their marriage was really well portrayed.– The detail to the candle and embalming references. At times they were so detailed it was haunting.– How the book made me think is history all it seems? Did Arthur Tudor really die of the sweating sickness? Which we know he did but what if a Tudor enemy killed him in the hope to restore the Plantagenet rule?What I didn’t like:– It was anticlimatic. I felt like the ending was rushed. Even the announcement of who the killer was, made me unsatisfied with how it was played out.– It was dragged out. I feel like quite a few pages could’ve been cut and nothing would’ve been lost. – It was not as atmospheric as I would’ve liked. Yes Harper had all the candle lingo to a tee, but the supposedly spooky scenes in the dungeons didn’t do it for me. Even like Varina, I don’t like enclosed spaces, but the scenes where she felt confined didn’t bother me.– The characterisation wasn’t remarkable. The supporting characters mostly weren’t that interesting, though there was a scene where young Henry confronts his mother and was rather beastly to her. That did give me chills, once again we see sparks of how Henry will be as Henry VIII in years to come.– The death of Elizabeth of York was rushed. Okay, we know she died in childbirth and I liked how that scene was presented but it needed to be longer. Summary:Okay, so I borrowed this book at the library. It caught my eye, and I gave it a go. I’m utterly fascinated by Elizabeth of York, so I was so happy when I saw the book was told from her POV. It was a great read in some places but it fell flat by the end, but I’ll definitely read this author again.Why? Because I like her characterisation of Elizabeth and Henry, and also I have on my tbr her book, “Shakespeare’s Mistress.”

  • Rievinska Firsty
    2019-05-27 04:48

    Terjemahannya agak annoying sih, tapi seru thrillnya berasa. Sebetulnya agak ketebak endingnya gimana dan Varina yang craving for Nick itu somehow annoying juga. But overall seru sih, walau di tengah sedikit bosan, tapi di akhir enjoy lagi :)

  • Angela
    2019-05-26 09:52

    Interesting story about a commoner in the time of Henry VII. Her interaction with a grieving Queen Elizabeth of York was sensitive and evocative at the same time.

  • nikkia neil
    2019-06-18 07:28

    Loved this medieval romance and action thriller! Candle sculptor and knight solve a mystery, find love, and show us a different view of Henry VIII's parents.

  • Gloria Marcano Cerisano
    2019-06-06 06:57

    Love historical fiction and Karen Harper wrote a great book. I love how she gave us a story about Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, Varina was a great character in the story, love how she uses it and it makes the storytelling even more interesting.

  • Sue Cook
    2019-06-11 04:32

    One star is being generous!

  • Melissa
    2019-05-31 10:54

    Firstly, I'd like to thank Goodreads and the Penguin Group: I won this novel as part of the First Reads program.Although the novel opens on the young widow and candlemaker, Varina Wescott, the tale revolves around not one, but two women -- the other one being Queen Elizabeth, wife to King Henry VII and mother of the future King Henry VIII. The story is mainly told from Varina's point of view, but parts of it are narrated by the Queen.Varina is a talented candlemaker, running her deceased husband's shop with the help of her sister and brother-in-law in a time when it was exceedingly rare for a woman to do so. She spends her days making candles for funerals, church services and weddings -- although she often finds herself carving the face of her youngest son, who died four months prior to the narrative. In between fending off the proposals of half the single men of the candlemakers' guild and running a prosperous shop, Varina comes to the attention of a lady at the palace: the Queen.This young candlemaker and the Queen have something in common -- both have lost children. The Queen, having seen an angel candle made by Varina, calls the candlemaker to the palace to carve four waxen effigies in secret. Why the secret? Two are of the Queen's deceased children ... the other two are of her dead brothers, the legendary Princes in the Tower.Varina completes the task, but her time with the Queen and royal politics does not end there. The Queen has bigger plans for her candlemaker -- to sniff out rumors surrounding the murder of her brothers. With the help of Nick Sutton, once a Yorkist loyalist, now sworn to the Tudor throne, Sutton will do anything to keep himself in King Henry's good graces.I wanted to like this book, simply because I was fortunate to win a free copy. Sadly, I ended up feeling rather confused. I've read many Tudor/War of the Roses-era books (mostly Philippa Gregory), so I considered myself fairly familiar with the events. The main villain of the novel is one Lord Lovell, whom I never had heard of before this book; then there is a man by the name of Tyrell, who was executed for the Princes' murder almost twenty years later.Varina is fairly unremarkable. I admire her pluck in trying to keep the shop open on her own. But while she keeps her one adament suitor at arms'-length and prefers to not remarry, the minute Nick Sutton appears, she's all a-twitter.The passages told from the Queen's point of view, honestly, should have been left out, since they really didn't contribute much to the narrative. Admittedly, King Henry must have loved his wife a lot, since he tolerated her crusade to find her brothers' murderers. Murders that paved his way to the throne.History tells us that Prince Arthur, Queen Catherine of Aragon's first husband, was a weak child, who succumbed to an illness in Wales. Karen Harper postulates that he was poisoned by Lord Lovell out of Yorkist loyalty. Definitely a different take!The novel runs along at a fairly fast clip, taking Varina from her candleshop to the palace, out to Wales and back again. From lowly candlemaker to Queen's confidante in two easy steps! Throw in a little peril and some child endangerment, but not enough to capture my attention. I found myself skimming towards the end.Not a spectacular novel, but an okay one.

  • Jennifer
    2019-06-06 07:51

    This novel took a while for me to get into it (about 100 pages) but once I did I found the characters to be very vivid and the plot suspenseful. Unfortunately though it then fizzled out towards the end, with loose ends abruptly tied together in a way that gave no real closure to the character's stories. I would have given this novel a solid four stars if not for the ending.The middle of the novel though, the 'bulk' of it, was very entertaining. The author has created a mystery surrounding a discontented Yorkist during the reign of Henry Tudor (VII). Sir Francis Lovell seeks to destory the 'upstart' King, whilst also wishing to bring to light what he knows of the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower from years before. The sister of the princes, Queen Elizabeth, still mourns for them and seeks to know the truth behind their disappearance. She enlists the services of Varina Westcott, a candlemaker, to carve waxen effigies of her brothers, but Varina soon becomes tied up in the plot of the villian Lovell.One thing I did find a little strange in this novel is that Queen Elizabeth continuously refers to her husband's enemies as 'Yorkists'; something I find rather ironic when she herself was the daughter of the Yorkist King Edward IV. If her brothers would have survived then they, in turn, would have been the rightful King of England, and not her husband. Considering the amount of guilt she feels about their disappearance, and the extremity in which she mourns them, it would seem that she is not thinking in terms of keeping her husband on his throne. It makes me wonder how the Elizabeth of this novel would have viewed the so-called 'pretenders' to Tudor's throne, Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck, but unfortunately neither of these were mentioned in this novel.The part of the novel that I felt to be the most intriguing was the time Varina spent in Wales, trying to uncover evidence that the Tudor heir to the throne, Prince Arthur, was murdered. I have always taken it for granted that he died of natural causes, for he was a sickly boy, but I did find it interesting to read of the theory that he was murdered. Also, the tales of the Welsh hero Owen Glendower that the author incorporated into the story really sparked my interest into the history of this Welsh figure. Considering he lived merely a century before, it makes sense that Henry Tudor felt the need to consolidate his power in Wales by sending his son there as a figurehead of authority.Overall I felt that this novel had a lot of potential, with a very interesting and suspenseful plot, but unfortunately the beginning was slow and the end a disappointment. I wonder if the author was in a rush to finish her novel

  • Kim
    2019-06-09 06:56

    When I heard about this book, I was incredibly excited to read it. Tudor mania is a big business, with many books contributing to it, but only a small number of those books ever bother to feature Elizabeth of York in any real detail. So, hearing that the first Tudor Queen was going to be one of the principle characters of the book had captured my interest.(view spoiler)[Ultimately, however, I was disappointed with the overall result. The main character, Varina Westcott, lacked any real depth to win my sympathy or interest. Her behavior is rather illogical, being repelled by one suitor, Christopher Gage, and yet having an immediate attraction and longing for one of the Queen's men, Nicholas Sutton. Her constant tears were also an annoyance.Perhaps the one saving grace of the book was the parts that were narrated by Elizabeth of York herself. She was a far more compelling character, to the point where I was skimming Varina's parts just so I could get back to Elizabeth. However, Varina's part in the story is far more extensive, and thus I ended up flipping through most of the book. Not a good thing.The mystery of the novel -- the attempt to discover who was behind the murder of the Princes in the Tower, as well as looking to see if there was foul play involved in the death of Prince Arthur, Elizabeth of York's eldest son -- wasn't even enough to save the book. I've never seen any attempt to write Arthur's death as anything other than sickness, but by the time that it rolled around, I was thoroughly disillusioned by the book and characters that I couldn't really muster any enthusiasm. Possibly the only thing I enjoyed about the entire plot was the revelation that Elizabeth's own husband, Henry VII, was behind the death of her brothers, though unintentionally. Having the situation harken back to Henry II and Thomas Beckett was an interesting touch.It's so strange that the book was so unreadable. Karen Harper is an excellent writer -- her book The Last Boleyn is one of my favorite Tudor era fiction books of all -- but this book just doesn't really measure up to her talents. (hide spoiler)]

  • Éowyn
    2019-06-22 06:32

    The book has three mysteries at the heart - was Arthur Tudor really murdered (I confess this is a new theory to me and not sure how credible this is), what happened to the so-called Princes in the Tower and what became of Lord Lovell after the Battle of Stoke. Personally, I think the latter is done a great disservice here, based on the historical knowns of his character. Even so, what happens and with the hero and heroine's consent is pretty horrific - yes, I know the historical basis for this, but it doesn't do much good for liking the supposed protagonists! Also the rather melodramatic language as the book nears it's conclusion - monster, beast, devil - it just goes a bit over the top.I could explain a bit more about why I wasn't keen on the book, but it would be difficult to do without spoilers, so I suppose I will leave that there. I will just say that I find it hard to credit that when Elizabeth Woodville came out of sanctuary in 1484 she didn't know what had happened to her sons and therefore one would assume that Elizabeth of York would also have known - and she was happy enough to be honoured at her uncle's court that Yuletide. Having the Elizabeth of this book rail against Yorkists when she came from what seemed a close family does seem to me to be somewhat absurd.There are, also, a number of errors which could and should have been picked up. Another reviewer has already mentioned the note which is shown to two other people on one page and on the following page is apparently a secret! There are also TWO erroneous mentions of Richard duke of York, when the context is reasonably clear the person actually referred to is York's son, Richard Duke of Gloucester - elementary mistake that should not have been made!Perhaps I have read too many non-fiction books about the period and have formed my own strong opinions to enjoy this book as much as some other reviewers. If it is going to be your 'thing' I can only give you my opinion and leave it to yourselves to determine.

  • Katie
    2019-06-06 05:33

    I have now read several books by Karen Harper, and I find her to be, as another reviewer said, hit-or-miss. I first read The First Princess of Wales (about Joan of Kent, wife to the Black Prince and mother to Richard II) several years ago and quite enjoyed it...but then there seems to be so little about that period in comparison to the oft-mined Tudor era. I was fairly happy with The Last Boleyn (though not as much as with TFPOW), but again, Mary Boleyn typically gets short shrift compared to her more infamous (and much maligned) younger sister, so the historical ground while familiar, was traveled with a unique perspective. I have also read Mistress Shakespeare, and while that took a while to get into, it was once again a unique perspective on what I thought (as a Shakespeare fanatic) was familiar ground. Initially, this book promised to be a similar experience, but while that quality was delivered in the spaces where candle-making and embalming traditions entered the story, the creative spark didn't carry over to the characters themselves. This wasn't a -bad- story, but it was lightweight, at best. While I appreciated the absence of graphic sex scenes that so many historical fiction writers feel are necessary, the romantic interactions between Varina and Nick felt immature in places (think back to your high school romances) and then in others, invested with a familiarity between the pair that was unearned. The writing was on the wall as to the outcome of Varina's relationship with both Christopher Gage and Nick Sutton from her initial interlude with each, so there was certainly no mystery there, which made the lingering "question" of her status with each of them more tedious than interesting. I do applaud the author for seeking a new angle on some of the Tudor questions that are still unknown, but I wish she had given her characters greater depth, which would have lent more gravity and enjoyability to to the story.

  • ash
    2019-06-07 08:32

    Engaging plot, brave heroine and historical backdrop? Yes please! Mistress of Mourning by Karen Harper is an interesting, compelling read with vivid descriptions, an original heroine and the rich tapestry of early 16th century Britain.Varina Westcott, widow and wax-worker is hired by Elizabeth, wife of Henry VII, to create wax effigies of her brothers who disappeared from the Tower all those years ago. When Elizabeth's eldest son Arthur dies in his new home is Wales, the queen sends Varina and the handsome Nick Sutton to investigate this death. Secrets of the past are dragged up as Varina and Nick work to bring down a man who works against the royal family, and maybe even against Varina herself. The plot was fast paced and kept me reading until the end, guessing at every turn. Though there was one very predictable element at the end, the story was an interesting (though not very original) theory about what happened to the young princes.Varina was a brave, determined and clever heroine and I loved her character. She was stubborn and fierce but cared for and loved her son beyond everything. An independent widow in business in 1501? Unheard of, but Varina was a throughly modern woman whom I respected and admired. She interacted with the colourful cast of characters in a real and believable way, reacting differently to each one. The character latticework in the story was very strong and Harper really knows how to create relationships and personalities. The only reason I gave this book 3 and not 4, was because though engaging, the plot was neither very original or ingenious. It seemed a little worked in some places and, though I suppose it is hard to be original about such things, the plot didn't strike me in any particular way.Compelling in most parts and with a wonderfully painted cast of characters, Mistress of Mourning was an enjoyable read and I will for sure be reading more of Harper's books.

  • Kristen McQuinn
    2019-06-18 09:29

    Mistress of Mourning was the second novel I have read by Karen Harper. It was set in the earlier days of the Tudor dynasty, in the reign of Henry VII, and focused largely on the death of Arthur, Prince of Wales. The premise was interesting - a widowed chandler, Varina Westcott, is hired by the queen, Elizabeth of York, to carve effigies of her dead children and her missing brothers, the Princes in the Tower. Varina becomes the queen's confidant and she is hired, along with the king's man Nick Sutton, to go to Wales to investigate the death of Arthur, whom the queen believes did not die of illness but of foul play. Along the way, of course, are the requisite bad guys, traitors, and love stories. The idea that Arthur was poisoned is intriguing. I am not sure I believe it myself, but Harper makes a compelling argument in favor of it. Given the prince's poor health throughout his life, a Yorkist assassin slipping in a deadly herb that would cause symptoms resembling any number of illnesses isn't too much of a stretch to be unrealistic. I suppose it could happen. The issue with the Princes in the Tower felt a little rushed in the end. Henry's confession felt a tad contrived, the explanation for their deaths too convenient. But I liked the homage to Henry II and Thomas Becket's feud, and how Henry VII's "confession" was similar to Henry II's "order" to kill Becket. In general, I liked the characters, though I felt they all needed more development. I thought that was a little odd since the other book I'd read by Harper had extremely well developed characters. Varina and Nick were, of course, the most thoroughly fleshed-out, though they still lacked some depth and had questions left unanswered. It wasn't enough to detect from the overall plot, just something that was a bit strange considering the experience I had with her other book, Mistress Shakespeare. Overall, a quick, fun read. Recommended for fans of Tudor history.

  • Kathy
    2019-06-16 08:28

    I had high hopes for Mistress of Mourning. The time period is interesting, and the idea of a mystery surrounding the death of Prince Arthur, the son and heir of Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York, sounded promising. Unfortunately, the author's history is, at times, quite sloppy. Now, I'm not expecting an academic treatise on the subject, but it would be nice if the author got such things as names and titles correct. For example, the author repeatedly refers to King Richard III as "Richard of York." Now, R3 may have been a member of the House of York, but he was never called Richard of York. Before assuming the crown, he was Richard of Gloucester, never York. There was a Richard of York, but he was Richard III's father. BIG difference here. Now, I've nothing against a writer using her imagination to invent or recreate events, what historical persons said or did. It is, after all, a work of fiction. But if you're not going to get basic facts straight, then maybe you should stick to strictly fiction and leave the historical part out of it. I also wasn't very impressed with the characters and how they behaved. Maybe I've read too much real history, and too many works of historical fiction by excellent authors, but these characters never rang true to me, and the situations in the Tudor court just sounded...wrong. I can't imagine why a queen would send a woman who is little better than an acquaintance on such an important mission as to discover the truth behind her son's death. If you are looking for good historical mystery/fiction, try Elizabeth Loupas's The Flower Reader or The Second Duchess.

  • Rusalka
    2019-06-17 05:55

    This was one of those books. As in one of, I mean if I didn't need a Q book asap I would have dumped this and carried on my way. This was one of those books that does make me shy away from historical fiction. It was set after the War of the Roses, and is talking about Henry and his family since he won. And his wife Elizabeth's (formerly of York) desire to have wax effigies made of the dead. And she gets a commoner to do this. And then tells her all her secrets. And there is a sexy knight. You always need a sexy knight.I have many problems with this book, but I do think it is summarised best with my status updates while reading it:"Oh, this is going to be one of "those" books. "I accepted my payment from John and Clement - yes, that's right; that was his name - ..." Umm... your point being? It's a common name. I went to school with a Clement and a Clementine... /sigh". Also now I'm thinking about it. It was a Pope's name. In 92AD. FFS!! It was 1408 years old as a name when you were writing the book woman!!!"Now the Italian speaks with a dreadfully written German accent, and apparently in the 1500s people used the phrase "jolthead"." "Despite the aforementioned issues and couple of historical inaccuracies, it is pulling me along at quite a pace so I can see what happens.""I had begun to forgive the writing until she throws in words randomly like "mayhap" every 30 pages or so. Enough to jar as unfamiliar and out of place, but a 'reminder' we are in history."It was a quick read. It was kinda fun. It was horribly written and historically inaccurate.For more reviews visit

  • Kimberly Ann
    2019-06-08 05:46

    Varina Westcott, candle maker, is a widow who has also just lost her son... She makes beautiful angel candles w/ the face of her child on them & gives/sells them to very few... The candle guild is angry for Varina is not a member (she's female), and she is accepting small payments for an item that they have not approved nor priced.To make matters worse, wealthy widower & well thought of guild member Christopher Gage is pushing Varina into a betrothal that she is doing her best to avoid and having Varina pose for the stained windows for the new Guild hall.....The Queen Elizabeth wife of Henry VII has heard of Varina's angel candles and has hired Variana to work for her on the pretext of making wedding candles for her son Prince Arthur & the Spanish Princess Katherine of Aragon. In reality Varina is secretly creating wax effigies of her two dead children and more dangerously her two brothers, the "Princes in the Tower".Guarded by Nicholas Sutton, lest she be discovered, Varina begins her work on the effigies but then comes the news t hat the Queen's oldest son, Arthur, has died in Wales. Believing Arthur's death to be murder at the hands of the Henry's enemies, the Queen sends Nicholas & Varina to Wales to quietly investigate Arthur's death...I was bored.... I found Varina to be mealy-mouthed (could be due to her deep mourning) and other characters to be repulsive and/or weak....

  • Gemma
    2019-06-24 06:57

    I had high hopes for The Queen's Confidante after enjoying Harper's 'The Queen's Governess' previously. Unfortunately this book didn't live up to expectations. This was mostly because I found the story unbelieveable and too far fetched. I know it's historical fiction, and I don't mind a bit of a twist on fact, but this was just a bit too silly in places for me to take it seriously.The book starts well where we meet widow Varina Wescott a candle maker that runs a successful shop. Because of how successful she is, the Queen sends for her to carry out a secret project. The project however is just a bit silly.The book covers the death of Prince Arthur (was he or wasn't he murdered) and Varina ends up going on an investigative mission for the King and Queen to Ludlow to find out the facts behind Arthur's death. She is accompanied by Nick Sutton, who is trying to prove himself to the King following his families previous Yorkist loyalties. The book also covers the mystery of the Princes in the Tower.The book ends quite hurriedly, and it makes the book feel rushed too. The ending again to me seemed unbelieveable, especially the parts when Varina is infront of the King.The book seems well researched but it's just not well written. I really enjoyed The Queen's Governess so would encourage people to read that.

  • Christie
    2019-06-01 09:48

    "Just think on it -- us making candles for the royal wedding," my brother-in-law, Gil, called to me from the door of the wax workshop.Varina Westcott is a candle maker in London n 1501, when she is mysteriously summoned to the palace to perform a service for the queen. Queen Elizabeth of York wants Varina to carve 4 wax figures to represent her lost children and lost brothers, the Princes in the Tower. When the queen's son, Prince Arthur, dies under mysterious circumstances, Varina and handsome Nicholas Sutton are sent to investigate the death, but will their investigation lead to their own deaths? Or will they end up solving two royal mysteries?So this was an interesting take on mourning and death in the 1500s, especially the glimpse into mourning rituals and the funeral business back then. It also proposes an interesting theory on what happened to the princes in the Tower. The romance in the book was very well done, no insta-love or overblown romantic gestures. I enjoyed the glimpse into the merchant class of London. The mystery was a bit flat and there were plenty of things that happened in the book that were historically inaccurate, but overall it was a fun and quick read, and I liked reading more about the early Tudor period.

  • Gary
    2019-06-23 09:51

    A suspense story and historical of two remarkable women in the England of 1501-Varena Westcott a candle maker who mourns for her late husband, and one of her sons, while carving out beautiful wax models and bringing up her other little boy.And Queen Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV, the sister of the princes in the tower and Queen of King Henry VII (as well as the mother of the future King Henry VIII)Elizabeth of York's face was also what the the face of the Queen in playing card decks up to this very day are modeled on.The Queen hires Varena to carve an effigies of her two late brothers and after the death of her elder son and heir Prince Arthur to help resolve what seems to be a murder by poisoning . From then she is swept into maelstrom of mystery, murder, suspense and fear, while being engaged in a romance with the dashing Nicholas.The characters are strong and engaging and I enjoyed most the novel. Good setting and creatively and engagingly written.Only the end and the role played by Francis Lovell seems a bit off the wall, and detracts from the overall good and entertaining historical mystery