Thrilling time-slip historical fiction about the enigmatic Lady Mary Seymour, daughter of Henry VIII’s widow Katherine Parr.

“She had not told him a single thing about her family. She had never spoken of them. But they were all there on the pages of notes she had so painstakingly compiled. The Seymour family tree linked them together, tangled as the roots of the old oaks of Savernake Forest. They were all there: she, Edward, Mary, Arthur…”

Wiltshire, Autumn 2016. Deep in a small, unassuming art shop, Alison Bannister stumbles upon a newly discovered Tudor 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.

Alison is not from the modern world. She has travelled a long way, waited 500 years, to find a clue as valuable as this portrait. For the painting holds the key to Mary Seymour’s mysterious disappearance and Alison’s own unhappy quest.

Alison and Mary have made an agreement which transcends time. Alison will help Mary escape Wolf Hall and Mary will find Alison’s baby boy.

The Phantom Tree is a novel for fans of mystery, drama and romance. Perfect for readers of Philippa Gregory and Barbara Erskine.

Chapter 2

Mary, Wiltshire, 1557

Alison Banestre and I were cousins of a kind. We were both orphans. There the bond between us began and ended: Alison, my enemy.
We made a bargain, she and I. She helped me to escape; I helped her to find her son. It is entirely possible to bargain with an enemy if there is something that you both want and so it proved. Thus we were bound together through time.
We met at Wolf Hall. I came there in the summer of fifteen hundred and fifty-seven, in the fourth year of the reign of Mary the Queen. I was a Mary, too, cousin of the late king, Edward, daughter to one dead queen and niece to another, with a famous name and not a penny to pay my way. I was ten years old and I already had a reputation for witchcraft.
The child is possessed, your grace, the cook at Grimsthorpe told the Duchess of Suffolk when, at the age of five, I was found sitting under a table in the kitchens, holding a posset that had curdled. That cream was as fresh as a daisy only a moment ago.


Nicola Cornick is an international bestseller and has penned over 40 novels.  She has been shortlisted four times for the US Romance Writers of America RITA Award and twice for the UK Romantic Novelists Association Romance Prize.  She studied History at the University of London and has a Masters in Public History from Ruskin College Oxford. She acts as a history consultant for TV and radio and gives talks on local history and creative writing. Nicola also volunteers as a guide and historian for the National Trust at Ashdown House. She lives in Oxfordshire. 


Nicola has always been fascinated by the mystery of Mary Seymour; how could the daughter of the widowed Queen and a man as notorious as Thomas Seymour simply disappear from the records? However, the initial inspiration for The Phantom Tree came from a small portrait claiming to be of Anne Boleyn, belonging to one of Nicola’s relatives. There is no way of knowing if the portrait is real or fake but the question authentication got Nicola thinking about the stories behind the facts.

Nicola always works with historical facts and shaped them through her own imaginative re-telling. For The Phantom Tree she visited the locations of Wolf Hall, Savernake Forest and Littlecote House, researching local records and national document on the stories surrounding each area. Several of the events in the book, including the ghost of the headless woman in Savernake Forest, are based on existing myths

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