Captivating and Magical, ‘The Phantom Tree’ Delivers An Alternate Look at Tudor History [REVIEW]

The Phantom Tree

Two women bound by a pact, two enemies separated by centuries. Lose yourself in the pages of Nicola Cornick’s The Phantom Tree. (Illustration courtesy Graydon House)

When a long-lost Tudor portrait suddenly surfaces in the midst of a modern-day English festival, one woman’s carefully constructed life is turned on its ear. The face in the painting is as familiar as her own. But can it be? Did the woman in the portrait live? And if so, what secrets does she hold? Find out in Nicola Cornick’s engrossing new novel, The Phantom Tree. 

Nicole Cornick's THE PHANTOM TREE

Graydon House

Alison Bannister despises the way people revive history with a faux event where everyone is dressed in period garb. It brings back too many memories, ones she does well to forget. And besides, they never seem to get the details quite right.

Yet when she peruses an antique shop and discovers a vivid portrait of a very familiar young woman, it brings the past back with surprising force. Even though the shopkeeper tells her it is a painting of Anne Boleyn, she knows it is actually Mary Seymour, someone she once knew at legendary Wolf Hall. For Alison is a woman out of time, living in the present, who continually seeks clues about the past when she was little more than a mere girl herself, way back in 1557.

The portrait is the key to Alison’s past life and it may very well unlock the mystery about Mary’s disappearance all those years ago. It may also be the one thing that can lead her back to her own time so she can finally find out the truth about what happened to her son. But does she have the courage to face the dark and foreboding truth and the secrets of a shadowy place called the Phantom Tree?

When readers open The Phantom Tree, they best have plenty of time set aside to lose themselves within the pages of this immersive novel. In many ways, it reminds me of some of my favorite gothic stories, tales I was practically weaned on and which I could never seem to get enough. By the time I finished it, I felt as if Phyllis A. Whitney and Jean Plaidy had gotten together to craft one last treat for their readers and thrust their worlds together to create an epic event we would be impossible to avoid, one which sends us falling happily down the rabbit hole one last time with relish.

Rife with rich historical detail, some of which readers may remember from history class while others will send them searching for an encyclopedia, this is a story that is lovingly and thoroughly researched. Yet the historicity is never overpowering, but only adds to each layer of this story, weaving in and out, proving captivating and magical, and always utterly fascinating. It is Cornick’s trademark, one which makes the past live again with vibrant, and sometimes surprising accuracy. While most mysteries send us racing to the finish line, this one makes us want to kick our shoes off and stay a while. The Phantom Tree is beautifully told, so much so that we easily suspend disbelief to revel in the masterful writing of an author who obviously loves what she does.


Nicola Cornick is the award-winning and international bestselling author of House of ShadowsDesiredConfessions of a DuchessDeceived, and Kidnapped. Her first book, True Colors, was published by Harlequin in 1998. Published in 26 languages, she is the current chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a member of the Society of Authors.

Cornick is also a guide and historian for the National Trust at Ashdown House, a 17th-century hunting lodge in Oxfordshire. She also gives talks about her historical research  and is a former Wiltshire Libraries Writer in Residence and trustee of the Wantage Literary Festival. She studied Medieval History at London University and later earned a masters degree in history at Ruskin College, Oxford.

Born and raised in the north of England, Cornick now invites readers to visit her home on the Web at, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

By Nicola Cornick
384 pgs. Graydon House. $15.99

TLC Book Tours Tour HostPurchase The Phantom Tree at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

The Phantom Tree is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

2 Responses to Captivating and Magical, ‘The Phantom Tree’ Delivers An Alternate Look at Tudor History [REVIEW]

  1. Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  2. Pingback: Nicola Cornick, author of THE PHANTOM TREE, on tour August/September 2018 | TLC Book Tours

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