by Adrienne Blake
Blackmail. Betrayal. Lust.
Blackmail, betrayal, and bedroom lust are standard fare in the court of Henry the Eighth. Joan Larke has heard all her young life that this is so, but she is completely unprepared to be dragged into the midst of it. Dragged she is, though, when the beautiful girl falls into the hands of the powerful and power hungry Thomas Wolsey, cardinal, confidant, and finally lord chamberlain to the king.
Wolsey knows how many secrets are passed in the bedchamber, and shamelessly enlists any woman who comes within his influence as his spy. He turns her, under duress, into a whore who brings him information from her pillow talk with the movers and shakers of the early 16th century. But he needs love, too, and he keeps Joan to himself—for a time.
When Joan finds herself no longer wanted and in peril of spending the rest of her life in a nunnery, she turns to Lady Anne Boleyn, who is rapidly supplanting Queen Catherine in Henry’s affections. But treachery is a two-edged sword, and the betrayer often becomes the betrayed in the shadowy world of Tudor court intrigue.
Although Joan has secrets of her own she can trade, in the end, she can do nothing but watch and tremble as the cardinal and the would-be queen battle behind the scenes for the love of their king, and to keep from winding up under the axe, as so many did in those dark days.
Publisher’s disclaimer: Contains detailed depictions of torture and death as practiced during this historical era.
Genre: Tudor SuspensePurchase link(s): Blushing Books Amazon iTunes B&N
Content/Theme(s): Royalty, BDSM, Historical, Romance
Release Date: August 13, 2016
Publisher: Blushing Books
Excerpt & More
As soon as the door was closed, the almoner put down his pheasant, and rubbed the grease off his hands with some cloth. "You seek honesty and openness. Very well, Mistress Larke, let me do you the courtesy of speaking plain. I would have you as my mistress. My situation in life, as you know, makes it impossible for me to offer you marriage. But I assure you, I have the means to set you and your brother up very well. You would both be very well taken care of. And any children you might have by me will receive not only the best education, but will undoubtedly be advanced by my connections at court."
His bluntness took her by surprise. She stared at the woodcock before her, and found it impossible to raise her eyes from the table. "I have struck you dumb?"
"No, no. I'm just momentarily at a loss for words."
"My offer does not repel you?"
Yes. And no. Oh, sweet Lord, how am I to respond to such a question? "Sir. Do you think so ill of me as to use me thus? You must think me no better than a common— I can hardly say the name. Whore?"
"Quite the reverse," said Wolsey. "Since meeting you that first time, I have made a number of inquiries. I know you to be a virtuous, honest woman. I cannot pretend to offer you matrimony, for it is beyond my gift to do so. But I can offer you protection. And love."
"Love. How easily you speak the word. Yet you hardly know me."
"I know what I must. Mistress Larke, when we talk of good opinion, do you think so lowly that I would choose to lie with any woman? I, Thomas Wolsey, who have sworn myself to chastity? Believe me, madam, it has not been without careful consideration that I offer myself thus to you. My dignity demands that I consider pairing myself with a woman of the gentle classes. To mate with any other would be untenable."
She sneered. "And you talk of love."
"Love will come. Mine is a constant nature. Give yourself to me and I will prove this to you."
Joan took a sip of wine, though mainly because she needed to hide her eyes from his penetrating gaze. She must think. Her brother was the ambitious one. Not she. And what is all this fine talk to me? And yet I could never be happy in a nondescript, provincial marriage. I would long for something finer, something deeper. Perhaps her brother was not the only ambitious one after all. She looked boldly at the almoner who watched her intently. Could she love him? "And what if you tire of me? What then? Am I to be cast aside with who knows however many bastard children by you, clinging to my skirts? What then?"
Wolsey reflected. "I will not cast you aside. But to ease your mind I will set aside enough wealth that you need never concern yourself on that score." He looked hopeful. Her questions must have encouraged him.
"I may yet say no."
"But I trust that you shall not."
Her mind rushed with reasons to disappoint him, clashing in her head like a typhoon. "My brother tells me you are a coming man. You will have enemies. Such men always do. How will you be able to protect me from them?"
"No man at court will be able to touch you."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I swear before almighty God, you will be safe from those hyenas."
She wondered he could be so cavalier about it. After all, it was a lucky man who could predict the actions of his enemies. Was Wolsey such a man? Only time will tell. Then again, when all was said and done, he was a very handsome man. She drew in a deep breath. "Very well."
Wolsey smiled. There was something in his eyes. He looked like a great cat with a successfully cornered doe. "You are in agreement then?"
She swallowed the last of her wine and poured herself a second goblet full. Am I? Decency screamed for her to say no, but she was ready to say yes. In fact she wanted to. But how?
She didn't have to think about it for long. The almoner rose from his chair, and joined her at the other side of the table. He took her hand, and she rose too, though her eyes remained downcast. "You tremble, Mistress Larke."
"I—I don't know what to say."
"Then say nothing." He hooked his finger under her chin and tilted her head to his. She could not look at him. His lips brushed hers, ever so gently. She was surprised.
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