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A Secret Alchemy

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Overview

The cruel fate of the Princes in the Tower is one of the most fascinating—and most troubling—of all England's historical murder mysteries. But what was the truth behind the deaths of the young Edward V and his brother, Dickon, taken from their mother, Elizabeth Woodville, King Edward IV's beautiful widow, and their guardian, Anthony Woodville? And what about the man who would become King Richard III?

In a brilliant feat of historical daring, the acclaimed author of The ...

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A Secret Alchemy

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Overview

The cruel fate of the Princes in the Tower is one of the most fascinating—and most troubling—of all England's historical murder mysteries. But what was the truth behind the deaths of the young Edward V and his brother, Dickon, taken from their mother, Elizabeth Woodville, King Edward IV's beautiful widow, and their guardian, Anthony Woodville? And what about the man who would become King Richard III?

In a brilliant feat of historical daring, the acclaimed author of The Mathematics of Love reimagines the tragedy of the youngest victims of the Wars of the Roses. Through the voices of Elizabeth, Anthony, and Una—a historian who herself knows grief, betrayal, and secret love—Emma Darwin re-creates the lethal power struggles into which the boys were born, their heart-wrenching imprisonment, and the ultimate betrayal of their innocence.

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Editorial Reviews

The Sunday Mail (Australia)
“Emma Darwin follows up on the great success of her debut novel The Mathematics of Love with this engaging work of historical fiction…This is a work of great atmosphere and a story well told.
Daily Mail (London)
“Powerful and utterly convincing.”
fyreflybooks.wordpress.com
“A Secret Alchemy was ... absorbing, interesting, well-written, and utterly enjoyable.”
London Times
“There are many twists and turns in this tale, some of them real, some of them not; together they add up to a spellbinding whole.”
London Times on A SECRET ALCHEMY
“There are many twists and turns in this tale, some of them real, some of them not; together they add up to a spellbinding whole.”
Daily Mail (London) on A SECRET ALCHEMY
“Powerful and utterly convincing.”
The Sunday Mail (Australia) on A SECRET ALCHEMY
“Emma Darwin follows up on the great success of her debut novel The Mathematics of Love with this engaging work of historical fiction…This is a work of great atmosphere and a story well told.
www.fyreflybooks.wordpress.com
“A Secret Alchemy was ... absorbing, interesting, well-written, and utterly enjoyable.”
Publishers Weekly

In this historical novel, Darwin (The Mathematics of Love) looks at the 15th century War of the Roses through the Woodville siblings, Anthony and Elizabeth (wife to Sir John Gray and later Edward IV). Trading off narrative duties, their stories alternate with that of a (fictional) present-day historian, Una Pryor, who is studying the two while visiting the U.K. to clear up some family business. Reuniting with the family estate's handyman, her unrequited love Mark Fisher, Una follows the path Anthony took trying to restore his nephew Ned, the rightful king of England. Historical sections, filled with allusion and mythology, make breathtaking drama for those in the know, but anyone without a background in the War of the Roses will be lost (and Darwin's quicksand pacing doesn't help). Court intrigue dominates the action, but Darwin's at her most powerful exploring Anthony's faith or Elizabeth's understanding of women, love and marriage in her time. Though the modern-day framing story isn't compelling enough to hold its own, a satisfying end ties the threads together nicely. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Darwin's debut, The Mathematics of Love, successfully alternated two plotlines-one historical and one contemporary. In her sophmore effort, she uses the same technique to contrast the experiences of actual historical figures Elizabeth Woodville (1437-92), queen of Edward IV, and her brother Anthony, 2nd Earl Rivers, with those of fictional historian Una Pryor, who has returned to England to visit family after her husband's death. Una's study of these royals helps her escape her own sorrow and unites the two stories. Despite two pages detailing royal British lineages at the time of the War of the Roses, the preponderance of Edwards, Richards, and Henrys makes for extremely confusing reading. As a result, it's hard to appreciate Elizabeth's adaptability as she woos Edward Plantagenet as a young widow, then bears him ten children, several of whom are killed when his brother Richard assumes the throne upon Edward's death. For American readers, the historical note at the end of the novel would have been more usefully placed at the beginning. Still, Anglophiles and British history majors will enjoy.
—Christine Perkins

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061714726
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/2/2009
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Emma Darwin studied drama and theatre arts at Birmingham University and then worked in academic publishing before turning to photography and writing. A great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma Wedgwood, Emma now lives in London with her two children. The author of The Mathematics of Love, she is finishing a Ph.D. in creative writing at Goldsmiths College.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2013

    Excellent story

    Excellent story

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 31, 2011

    Interesting, informative

    The author did a great job of weaving together the two time periods. I hate when books jump around too much and leave you feeling confused but this was well put together. Great story, I learned a lot while reading this novel.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating

    Following the death of her husband, modern day historian Una Pryor is in England visiting her family and taking care of business. To escape her grief, she researches the lives of the fifteenth century Woodville siblings, Anthony and Elizabeth.

    Elizabeth was married to Sir John Gray, but when he died the young widow pursued and married Edward IV; they have ten children, but when the king dies none of them take the throne as his Brother Richard acts swiftly. An earl, Anthony tries to save his nephew Ned from his fraternal uncle and get him crowned as the rightful king. Meanwhile Una turns to estate's handyman, Mark Fisher whom she has loved forever for solace.

    A SECRET ALCHEMY is an interesting fiction that rotates Una's present life with fictional historian's deep look at the court dominated lives of Anthony and Elizabeth. The action is mostly off page, but ultra fans of fifteenth century royal intrigue will enjoy this fine entry somewhat overwhelmed with the details of how the Woodville siblings struggled to survive the internal battles for the throne.; which he and her sons (the Princes in the Tower) did not.

    Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 28, 2010

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 7 Customer Reviews

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