A young woman from Elizabethan England becomes trapped in the present in Cornick’s (House of Shadows, 2017, etc.) historical fantasy.
Though she looks like hundreds of other London professionals, Alison Bannister is not like other women. Originally born and raised more than four centuries ago, she accidentally found her way through time when she was trying to escape the aftermath of a scandalous love affair. At first, she could move back and forth with ease, but then, just when she was planning to bring her illegitimate child from the past into the future, she was crushed to discover that she could no longer find her way back to the 1500s. For 10 years she created a 21st-century life for herself, but she continues to mourn for her lost child and to look for ways to travel back through time. When she stumbles across a painting that is being touted as a newly discovered portrait of Anne Boleyn, she recognizes that the portrait’s subject is in fact Mary Seymour, daughter of Queen Katherine Parr and the traitor Thomas Seymour. She and Mary had spent time together at Wolf Hall in the past, and when Alison left, she made Mary promise to find out the whereabouts of her son and leave her a message. The portrait clearly contains the information she seeks, but how will she convince Adam, her ex-boyfriend and the “authenticator” of the painting, that he has the wrong subject—and that she needs his help for a seemingly impossible quest? Cornick alternates chapters between Alison’s perspective in the present day and Mary’s voice from the 1500s. The lessons learned are somewhat trite and the romance a bit generic, but the original premise keeps the reader guessing.
Cornick takes a little-known historical figure, Mary Seymour, and crafts a creative and layered narrative around her life and times.