There are many stories with which I bore my greedy visitors but there is one I never shall tell. Although it pleases me to confide this tale to my good friends quill and parchment, I have instructed the stout, dumpling-cheeked widow who sees to the comfort of my house to feed my writings to the flames the moment I breathe my last. I do not doubt that she will obey my order since I have bought her loyalty with gold and soft words, and in any case the woman is unlettered and has little interest in my ramblings. Thus I would have it. I am the last survivor of those who took part in the Plaincourt Manor affair and I have vowed to take that secret to my grave...", The illegitimate child of a penniless knight and a woman of easy virtue, Francis Cranley is abandoned by his mother when his father is killed in battle bravely fighting for the esteemed House of York. Realizing the babe faces certain death without his intervention, the Duke of York decides to repay his dead knight's loyalty by saving the child, taking him in and raising him at Middleham Castle alongside his own children, including the youngest, Richard of Gloucester, to whom he grows particularly attached, displaying an unswerving loyalty from an early age. Capable, quick-witted and handy in a fight, Cranley is chosen by Gloucester to untangle a mystery that arrives at the castle one wintery December morning in the guise of an old soldier on the run. Accused of murdering a child, the man begs Gloucester to help him prove his innocence. Years ago he saved the Duke's life and now he hopes the favour will be returned. Gloucester wants to help, but he cannot be seen to aid a man wanted by the King's justices, since the King is his beloved brother. So he turns to Cranley, who then embarks on a journey that puts his life in mortal danger as he uncovers dark secrets and is pitted against powerful enemies uncomfortably close to the throne. A tale of intrigue, mystery and high drama set against the backdrop of one of the most dramatic episodes in English history, this debut novel from Kathy Martin draws upon her skills as a historian to vividly recreate the landscapes of England that played host to such events.
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