The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

Back view of a woman in a blue Tudor dress walking out of an arched doorway towards the spreading winter-bare branches of a tree.Why I read it:  I received a review copy via the publisher.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  “My name is Mary Seymour and I am the daughter of one queen and the niece of another.”

Browsing antiques shops in Wiltshire, Alison Bannister stumbles across a delicate old portrait – supposedly of Anne Boleyn. Except Alison knows better… The woman is Mary Seymour, the daughter of Katherine Parr who was taken to Wolf Hall in 1557 as an unwanted orphan and presumed dead after going missing as a child.

The painting is more than just a beautiful object from Alison’s past – it holds the key to her future, unlocking the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance, and the enigma of Alison’s son.

But Alison’s quest soon takes a dark and foreboding turn, as a meeting place called the Phantom Tree harbours secrets in its shadows…

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  In 1560, both Mary Seymour and Alison Banistre were at Wolf Hall together. They weren’t friends but they weren’t exactly enemies either. Alison did Mary a big favour and requested a boon in return. Alison went through a portal into the future (present day Marlborough) and Mary stayed where she was. She was tasked with finding out the location of Alison’s son, Arthur, who had been taken from her at birth. The plan had been for Alison to come back through to the past in the short term, snatch up Arthur and live happily together, perhaps in the future, perhaps not. But Alison’s way was blocked and she could not return. When the book begins, Alison has been in “now” for ten years and is desperately searching for a way back and to the answer to what happened to her son.

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