Setting: England, Derbyshire, Hardwick Manor, London
Time: 1539-1567, Prologue and Epilog 1603
Main characters: Elizabeth Hardwick Talbot - Countess of Shrewsbury, Elizabeth Brooke - eventually wife of William Parr (brother of Katherine Parr)
First paragraph, Prologue: "She stood at the westward-facing window of her bed-chamber. The sun was poised to slip over the horizon, and its rays slanted across the rolling hills and fields as though in a last desperate attempt to cling to the rolling ball of the earth. The sky was shot with pink and gold, the underside of the drifting clouds aflame with the sun's dying glory.
The queen was dead."
Description: The author of The September Queen explores Tudor England with the tale of Bess of Hardwick—the formidable four-time widowed Tudor dynast who became one of the most powerful women in the history of England. On her twelfth birthday, Bess of Hardwick receives the news that she is to be a waiting gentlewoman in the household of Lady Zouche. Armed with nothing but her razor-sharp wit and fetching looks, Bess is terrified of leaving home. But as her family has neither the money nor the connections to find her a good husband, she must go to facilitate her rise in society. When Bess arrives at the glamorous court of King Henry VIII, she is thrust into a treacherous world of politics and intrigue, a world she must quickly learn to navigate. The gruesome fates of Henry’s wives convince Bess that marrying is a dangerous business. Even so, she finds the courage to wed not once, but four times. Bess outlives one husband, then another, securing her status as a woman of property. But it is when she is widowed a third time that she is left with a large fortune and even larger decisions—discovering that, for a woman of substance, the power and the possibilities are endless.
About the author: Gillian uses her years of experience in theatre an actress, director, and producer to help authors give effective public readings, through workshops and private coaching. Her life-long fascination with British history and dedication to research infuse her novels with a compelling evocation of time and place, and provide fodder for her non-fiction writing, including articles on "Frost Fairs on the River Thames," "The Royal Miracle: The Biggest What-If in English History," and "1660: The Year of the Restoration of Theatre".