I had a huge Tudor book phase 4-5 years ago. I read everything about Henry the 8th and his wives, watched any Tudor show/movie (ahem, The Tudors with Jonathan Rhys Myers…swoon) and thought about what it was like to live during that era. My phase ended when I moved out of my apartment and into my boyfriend’s (he didn’t care to watch The Tudors 800 times) so it’s been awhile since I’ve picked up a Tudor book. I jumped at the chance to get an ARC of The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick. The premise of the novel seemed like something I could dive into.
The book starts with Allison peeking into a gallery window and seeing a painting of Mary Seymour. However, it’s labeled as Anne Boleyn. She becomes curious and walks inside, and to her surprise, after speaking to the gallery owner, finds out that the man who is claiming the portrait is of Anne Boleyn is her ex boyfriend, Adam.
To make the story even more crazy, Alison is a time traveler. She knew Mary Seymour as a girl. Alison has been trying to get back to her own time and find out what happened to her son. She tries to figure out the clues left by Mary and struggles to find the answers to where her son is. While all this happening, her romance with Adam is rekindled… but he still has no idea she’s a time traveler. Allison struggles with her relationships, knowing they are completely built on deception.
I really liked the premise of this, however I found some issues with the story. I felt really confused as to how Alison could spend just 10 years in modern times and not slip up, or have anyone be suspicious of her. There’s no way she knew how to navigate the world that easily. She works a normal job, had a boyfriend, etc and never had any issues. Whaaaaaaaaaaat?
The book went back and forth between Alison and Mary Seymour. Mary, at first, was a super awkward character. She was beyond naive when it came to men. but I guess that can be expected due to her life at that time. She did grow out of it in the end, thankfully. However, she had an “imaginary friend” who didn’t make a ton of sense at first. Even after his true identity is revealed, the connection lacked development.
Overall, I love love loved the idea of the story, but I couldn’t really vibe with Mary or Alison.
3.5 stars from me.