Nicola here. Yesterday was NA release day for my latest dual-time historical mystery The Last Daughter of York which was published in the UK a few months ago under the title of The Last Daughter. Central to the story is the 15th century mystery of the Princes in the Tower – what happened to these young sons of King Edward IV, was their uncle Richard responsible for their disappearance and possible death, and why is this mystery still so powerful today, 500 years later. I’m a real sucker for a historical mystery, real or imaginary, and I love the idea of examining the historical story in the present and coming up with a solution to an age-old mystery.
There is a theme of disappearance in both sections of the book. In the modern-day story, Serena Warren returns to Minster Lovell, the place of her childhood holidays, to try and find out what happened to her sister Caitlin who vanished ten years before. As Serena starts to dig into the past and her memories, she uncovers a genealogical link to the Plantagenets and the mystery of the princes.
It was actually the setting of Minster Lovell Hall that suggested to me the idea of disappearances as the folklore of the village includes a number of stories about people who vanish, just as the princes did. The first story is the tale of the mistletoe bride which is a traditional Christmas ghost story. It was said that a very long time ago (the precise date was lost in the mists of time) one of the Lovell family married a beautiful heiress and at the wedding feast they all played hide and seek. The bride herself disappeared and no one could find her. Centuries later her body was discovered in a locked chest; she had gone in there to hide and been unable to escape. More a horror story than a romance, it was the starting point for my book but I changed a lot of the details!
It was also said that Francis Lovell, who is the hero of the historic strand of my story, hid at Minster Lovell after the Battle of Stoke in 1487 and that he too disappeared. There are many different ideas about Francis's eventual fate, just as there are for the Princes. This bit of folklore also made its way into my story in a different form!
I loved writing the story of Anne and Francis Lovell who were married as children and grew up together. Francis was the closest friend on King Richard III and Anne is a fascinating woman from the footnotes of history whom it was wonderful to research and learn more about. Minster Lovell, their home by the little river Windrush in Oxfordshire, is a ruin now but is the most beautiful and atmospheric place to visit.
Early on it was decided that the title of the book would be different when it came out in the UK and North America. The NA team wanted to stress the historical elements of the book whilst the UK publishers put more emphasis on the dual time elements of the story and the contemporary thread. This also led to the very different but equally beautiful covers; the NA version even has “A Tudor Novel” on the cover and certainly the last two years of the historical story do take place in the Tudor period! History buffs will notice that the buildings on the cover are later than Tudor but as the book also has a contemporary thread that’s fine! And the roses are beautiful and fitting to the Wars of the Roses.
Incidentally, The Last Daughter of York is a very romantic book with two happy endings as I wrote it during the pandemic when I definitely wanted to read – and write – happy stories and I hope you will enjoy that aspect of the book too!
You can find The Last Daughter of York in the bookshop, library and online.
One reader can win a copy today as well! Simply leave a comment between now and and midnight Thursday 18th and we will choose a winner at random. The contest is open internationally.
If you were to travel in time, what essential modern day item would you take with you?