Skip to Main Content

This new novel in the “wonderfully absorbing” (Library Journal) Secrets of the Tudor Court series, features a tailor’s daughter who suspects she is an illegitimate offspring of King Henry VIII.

Audrey Malte is illegitimate, though her beloved father—tailor to King Henry VIII—prefers to call her “merry-begot,” saying there was much joy in her making. Then Audrey visits the royal court with her father, and the whispers start about Audrey’s distinctive Tudor-red hair and the kindness that the king shows her. Did dashing Henry perhaps ask Malte to raise a royal love child? The king’s favor, however, brings Audrey constraint as well as opportunity. Though she holds tender feelings for her handsome music tutor, John Harington, the king is pressuring her to marry into the family of treacherous, land-hungry Sir Richard Southwell. Audrey determines to learn the truth about her birth at last. The answer may give her the freedom to give her heart as she chooses . . . or it could ensnare her deeper in an enemy’s ruthless scheme.

This reading group guide for Royal Inheritance includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

This new novel from Kate Emerson, the critically acclaimed author of the Secrets of the Tudor Court series, centers around Audrey Malte, an illegitimate daughter of King Henry VIII who grows up at court thinking that her father is the king’s tailor.

When Audrey reaches marriageable age, she begins to realize, from the way certain people behave toward her, that Malte is keeping secrets from her, and she sets out to discover the truth. Her quest brings her into contact with some of the best and worst of Henry’s courtiers, among them a man with whom she falls in love.

Unfortunately, Malte has already entered into negotiations for her betrothal to someone else. It is up to Audrey to navigate Henry’s court so that she may marry the man she loves.

With the rich, lush detail that has become a trademark of Kate Emerson’s novels, Royal Inheritance is a wonderful picture of a young woman trying to find her own legacy at the Tudor court.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. As Royal Inheritance begins, Audrey has decided to tell her daughter, Hester, the truth about her own background. Why does she think that she has a duty to do so? Do you agree with Audrey’s decision to tell Hester the truth? What does Audrey mean when she tells Hester, “Close kinship to the Crown is a burden, not a gift” (page 257)? Discuss the ways that Audrey’s statement manifests itself in her own life.
 
2. Audrey says, “It is always better to face the truth than to deceive one’s self, even when the truth is so painful that it hurts to take the next breath” (page 327). However, when she first begins to have doubts about her parentage, she delays in finding out more. Why do you think she does so? Are there characters you encounter in Royal Inheritance who hide important truths from themselves? Who?
 
3. Audrey refers to her hair as having a “too-bright color” (page 133). Why does she think it is too bright? What other clues about the true nature of Audrey’s parentage are there?
 
4. The first time Mother Anne meets Jack Harington, she greets him with a “friendly kiss . . . as is the custom when greeting those who are truly welcome,” leading Audrey to believe that he “must have desirable connections at the royal court” (page 53). What are your initial impressions of Jack? Do they change throughout the course of the novel? In what ways and why?
 
5. When Audrey is an adolescent, she says, “I did not often remember that I was a bastard myself. Even Bridget did not taunt me about it” (page 66). Why do you think that Bridget refrains from ridiculing Audrey? Discuss the relationship between the two sisters. Compare and contrast it to that of Elizabeth and Mary.
 
6. Mary Shelton says, “It is the fate of wives to be unhappy” (page 93). Do you think that Audrey is happy in her marriage? Do you agree with Audrey’s assessment that “any woman takes a great risk when she gives herself to a man” (page 167)? What does Audrey give up by getting married?
 
7. After Audrey meets Elizabeth for the first time, she says, “The encounter left me feeling strangely vulnerable” (page 127). Describe the encounter. Were you surprised by the way that Elizabeth reacts to Audrey when they are in the Tower of London together?
 
8. When Audrey reconnects with her mother, she says that “it was easier to think of her by her Christian name than to regard her as my mother” (page 230). Why do you think that this is the case? Describe their encounter. Were you surprised by Joanna’s treatment of Audrey? Why or why not? Why does Edith think that Joanna should be pitied rather than reviled? Do you agree with her?
 
9. Joanna tells Audrey that Malte is a good man. Why do you think that Joanna chooses to tell Audrey this at the end of their encounter? Do you agree with Joanna’s assessment of Malte? Why do you think that Malte agrees to raise Audrey as his own? How do they make Audrey feel that she is part of their family?
 
10. When Audrey criticizes Jack for spending his money on pen and ink while imprisoned in the Tower of London, he responds, “Those are not luxuries, but rather a necessity” (page 318). Why is writing important to Jack? Poetry is also important to the circle of friends that Audrey meets through Jack, including Thomas Clere and Mary Shelton. Discuss their meetings. What role does poetry play?
 
11. Malte tells Audrey he wants her to marry Southwell’s son Richard Darcy because “I want you to be safe after I am gone . . . Southwell looks after his own” (page 266). What reasons does Audrey give for refusing to do so? Do you think that Audrey will be safer married to Richard Darcy? Or do you think that she is correct to distrust Southwell?
 
12. Jack tells Audrey, “Far more dangerous are the animals that live indoors, wearing fine clothing and smiling” (page 226). In what ways is the court a dangerous place? Discuss the shifting alliances that occur throughout Royal Inheritance.
 
13. When Audrey says that Henry is the head of the Church of England because of his reforms, Mary Shelton responds, “There are reforms and then there are reforms” (page 192). What does she mean by this statement? Discuss it in the context of Elizabeth’s and Mary’s reigns.
 
14. After being told Anthony Denny’s title, Audrey says that it “sounded very important, although no more so than ‘royal tailor.’ I was too young yet to grasp the difference between a gentleman born and a merchant whose wealth allowed him to rise into the ranks of the gentry” (page 17). What is the difference? How is it apparent in the betrothals that occur in Royal Inheritance? Why is Richard Darcy seen as a better partner for Audrey than Jack Harington?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Henry VIII’s royal court serves as the backdrop for Royal Inheritance and many historical figures appear as characters in the book, including Lady Jane Grey, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth. Learn more about these historical figures by visiting the official website of the British Monarchy at http://www.royal.gov.uk/HistoryoftheMonarchy/KingsandQueensofEngland/TheTudors/TheTudors.aspx.
 
2. Audrey finds herself in the Tower of London serving Elizabeth, who has been incarcerated by her sister, Queen Mary. Take a virtual tour of the Tower: http://www.londononline.co.uk/towerguide/ and discuss the conditions in which Elizabeth and Audrey may have lived while they were staying in the Tower.
 
3. To learn more about Kate Emerson and find out more about her Secrets of the Tudor Court series, visit her official site at http://www.kateemersonhistoricals.com/.
 
4. Read more depictions of life in the Tudor court. Suggested reading: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory, In a Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener, Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith, The Last Wife Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson, The Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle, and At the King’s Pleasure by Kate Emerson.
Glamour Shots

Kate Emerson was born in Liberty, New York, and attended Bates College and Old Dominion University. She currently lives in Wilton, Maine. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and other professional organizations. Emerson also writes a Scottish mysteries series as Kaitlyn Dunnett. She currently lives in rural Western Maine with her husband and three cats. Visit her at KathyLynnEmerson.com.

"Readers with a voracious appetite for Tudor-set novels will take Emerson’s Secrets of the Tudor Court series to heart. It is more than the careful research, dramatic events, and lush details they savor; it is how Emerson merges little known historical personages and history into a powerful novel where ordinary people take center stage. This new outlook on history makes for realism, while tugging at readers’ hearts and stimulating minds to learn more about the era. Well-crafted historical fiction, romance and passion fill every page.”

– Romantic Times Book Reviews, four and a half star review

"Imagining the life story of Audrey Malte, an actual historical figure, [Emerson] reliably mixes court intrigue and the complicated politics of Henry’s life and multiple wives with the fascinating private journey of a young woman who gradually becomes aware of her royal heritage...Another satisfying, page-turning addition to Emerson’s series."

– Publishers Weekly

“5/5 Kate did it again! She might as well be called the Tudor goddess. I loved every page of "Royal Inheritance" because it was so exciting...makes for excellent reading. I highly recommend all of Kate’s novels because they are so much fun to read. They seem to surprise me every time.” 

– Historically Obsessed

"A wonderfully absorbing novel that is full of enough historical detail to satisfy even the most hard-core Tudor fan. Emerson beautifully depicts the difficulty of living in a treacherous period in which one had to do what the king’s pleasure demanded, in spite of the risk of losing one’s head.”

– Library Journal

"Sparked by an actual letter written by a Spanish ambassador in 1534, Emerson creates a believable scenario rich in accurate detail where her fictional Thomasine strolls comfortably next to real-life figures.“

– Publishers Weekly

"An engaging tale of loyalty, love, and treachery in the court of King Henry VIII."

– Fresh Fiction

"Intrigue, romance and treachery abound in this well-researched, sensitively written book."
 

– Renaissance magazine

"In the first in Emerson's series, it's hard to tell where reality ends and fiction begins. Rich and lushly detailed, teeming with passion and intrigue, this is a novel in which you can happily immerse yourself in another time and place." 

– Kathe Robins, RT Book Reviews

"It is this heroine that separates this book from the pack. The characters are subtle and well-drawn.."

– Publishers Weekly

More books from this author: Kate Emerson