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.
“Us and six other chandleries,” I reminded him as I sat behind our shop’s counter, which was cluttered with stacks of candles. “Four hundred tapers for the thanksgiving service, the mass and wedding banquet. I’m so excited that the marriage itself will be out on a public platform for all to see. I do so adore weddings, especially when I’ve seen so many funerals.”
Gil shuffled all the way into the shop, which fronted the street and which I oversaw. He was a short man but with a powerful upper torso from hefting metal molds and bales of woven wick from the days when he had his own small shop out by Wimbledon. I think his far better position in “fancy London,” as he always called it, went to his head, though he had not yet been admitted to the Worshipful Guild of Wax Chandlers. It was one of my goals for him, since women could not belong and my deceased husband had been so prominent in the guild. Gil did a fine job for me here: Our four apprentices jumped when his piercing voice ordered them to tasks he once had to do himself.
I myself had jolted at his voice and stabbed the wing feathers I’d been carving on a wax angel. I would have to smooth it over. It was entirely possible to correct mistakes in wax, at least. Dear heaven, how I rued the ones I’d made in life. Why, if I hadn’t been so careless, perhaps my dear Edmund might still be among the living.
I slowly slid the half-carved candle under the counter so Gil would not see that this angel, like the others I’d carved, had my dead son’s face again. Maud and Gil thought I was weak for mourning him so deeply, but they’d never had or lost a child. It was my sister’s cross to bear that she longed desperately for one, but Maud had never conceived.
“The ’prentices were talking ’bout seeing the Spanish princess enter London,” Gil said, wiping his hands on his waxy apron. “So, by the by, you going to walk our own Arthur home from school or want me to? I thought Christopher’s be calling on you again afore we close up, and I know you want someone waiting for the lad the moment he comes out the door.”
I was, as usual, tempted to go myself to greet and accompany my boy home, though most of the lads walked by themselves. But Gil was right about my possible visitor. Like many a widow with a prosperous shop, I had been courted by several men, and Christopher Gage, an officer in the Worshipful Guild of Wax Chandlers, had emerged as the most determined. I was in no rush to wed again after a year alone. Though there would be much profit in our shop’s assets being merged with his, I wished he would do more to make my son Arthur like him. Such a union with another chandler had helped me once, when I wed after my family died, but then, as ever in a merchant’s marriage, it brought my money and skills to the Westcott Chandlery too. That had been my dowry to my husband, Will, and my dower from him was this fine house and larger shop—and most of all, a kindly husband who gave me my two sons, though one of them was lost to me now.
In truth, I was not prepared to deal with Christopher again, so I was about to say that I would walk to fetch Arthur. Then, through the shop window—panes of real glass, I thought proudly, not just thin horn—I saw a fine ebony stallion ridden to a stop just before our door. No, two fine horses. A well-attired couple dismounted, and the man, tall and broad shouldered, gave a street boy a coin to hold their horses.
“You’d best go for Arthur,” I told Gil, standing up and shaking out my burgundy wool skirts. “Well-heeled customers, I warrant, ones I don’t recognize.”
“So I see,” he said, stooping to squint past me.
And then the great adventure of my life began.
Published by arrangement with New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from MISTRESS OF MOURNING by Karen Harper. Copyright © Karen Harper, 2012.
Karen Harper’s Mistress of Mourning is a gripping historical novel of suspense and romance.
Young widow and candle-maker Varina Westcott has been called upon to perform a clandestine task for Queen Elizabeth of York, the beautiful wife of Henry VII. Varina is to carve wax figures of four dead children, two of them offspring of the Queen, the others of the Princes of the Towers, her majesty’s long-missing brothers. But when the Queen’s son and heir to the throne dies suddenly of no apparent cause, she commands Varina and courtier Nicholas Sutton to investigate the suspicious death. And the Queen is right to be fearful. For unsettling clues lead the couple to a conspiracy that could very well topple the precarious Tudor monarchy.
Hardcover Book : 416 pages
Publisher: Nal Signet, Div Of Penguin Putnam ( July 03, 2012 )
Item #: 13-562237
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 1.04inches
Product Weight: 16.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
I'm a fan of Karen Harper's historical fiction and was not disappointed by "Mistress of Mourning"! In addition to being an entertaining story, the book was informative in regard to an era of British history that is not particularly well-covered by the genre. Much fascinating education of candle- and effigy-making as well embalming techniques in those times was likewise imparted during the reading. Lastly, of course, is Ms. Harper's interpretation of the mysteries surrounding the deaths of the princes in the Tower and Prince Arthur, Henry VII's first-born son, who died in Wales under suspicious circumstances. I thoroughly enjoyed the book!
Reviewer: Lynda B