Friday 31 May 2024

Extracts From The Writing Of April Taylor

On seeing the Holbein pencil sketch of Anne Boleyn, April Taylor’s parents remarked that it looked just like their daughter. This comment cemented an affinity April had felt for Henry VIII’s second wife since she had read Margaret Campbell-Barnes’ book Brief Gaudy Hour. However, it wasn’t until 2006 when April was working as a choir mistress on a cruise ship, that the idea for the Luke Ballard Chronicles was sparked.

‘The phrase Henry’s black-eyed boy kept going through my head,’ April says. ‘I wondered what would have happened if the boy child Anne miscarried in 1534 had been born alive.’

In her mind, April added a touch of very controlled magic, the forces of light and dark, and the setting of Hampton Court Palace. Her protagonist came to life; a somewhat shy, unconfident, but able apothecary called Luke Ballard.

April carried that idea around in her head for another 3 years before it became the novel, Court of Conspiracy. Two further books followed creating her Tudor Enigma series, but it was not until 2023 that April decided the story needed a prequel showing how Luke Ballard came to be who and what he was. 

Dangers of Destiny was the result and is the book that now opens the new Luke Ballard Chronicles. 

An extract from Dangers of Destiny 


‘Bitches. Useless bitches.’ He stood in the middle of the Fountain Court, frustration tinged with fear hissing from him. But quietly. The last thing he needed now was discovery, and he had made sure the light from the torches around the perimeter could not reach him. Aided, of course, by a little help from one of his incantations. Lowering his head in concentration, he could hear the guards at the Gatehouse of Hampton Court, just a few paces away. These imbeciles were so addle-brained, so far beneath his contempt. He stood within the walls of the most secure palace in England, save for the Tower of London, a few miles downstream.

Here they thought they could protect that useless mountain of hideous, stinking, flesh from his power. Had it been prudent, he would have laughed. A pity they had sent the Great Whore’s whelp to Greenwich, but what could a boy of 12 do against the might of a sunderer? A pity their plan to rid Henry VIII of Anne Boleyn had also failed, but that had been Cromwell’s fault and he had paid the price for it. Rightly so. 

He sharpened his concentration, sending out tentacles to see who was close by. Good. The enemy was nowhere near. Bastard elemancers. They believed in the power of the light of God. Milksop bunglers, all of them. As if their puny efforts could best the power of darkness. The Archon himself had promised promotion when his mission was accomplished.

His gaze dropped to the bodies of the two girls. This was not his fault. His dupe had not bothered to check they were suitable, the fool. The potion that should have made Great Harry waste away and die had failed. And what a soul-capture the dead king would make. So full of powerful, malevolent energy, to be tethered, drained at will and replenished. Aye, when he accomplished that, he could expect rich rewards. He would demand them. With a few curt words, he ordered his puppet to return to the royal apartments. He would deal with the simpleton at the appropriate time. What he must do now was find a way to instil terror into the complacent hedge-pigs who peopled this pile of useless bricks. He spent a few moments breathing in malevolence, then relaxed his shoulders. His mind now cool and working properly, he smiled. Aye, that would do it. As if picking flowers on a sunlit afternoon walk, he leisurely stripped the bodies, draped them across the fountain, and began his work.

Chapter One

Luke wiped his sweating palms down the front of his tunic. This would be the first time he had entered Hampton Court Palace since the discovery of two innocents, their broken, mutilated bodies discarded in Fountain Court. Rumour spoke of strange symbols carved into their flesh. Evil magic, some whispered. Luke’s assignment was to discover the truth and report back to Elemagus Verrall.

From the safety of Silas Parsloe’s apothecary shop in the precincts of the Outer Green, everything had seemed simple, yet enthralling. To be told that he, Luke Ballard, lowly apothecary’s assistant, had the elemancer talent. That he had a vital role to play in this year of our Lord, 1546. To expose the diablerie of sunderers who, even now, sucked the strength and life out of Henry VIII within the royal apartments. 

All knew the King’s life hung in the balance, even though Queen Anne Boleyn nursed him with the ferocity of a tigress. Henry’s death would plunge the realm into unrest. Strife would surely follow should the 12-year-old untried Henry, Prince of Wales inherit the throne now. 

Elemagus Verrall, head of the elemancers’ guild, had explained the importance of Luke’s investigation, filling his pupil’s head with thoughts of honour and chivalry. He had envisioned himself a latter-day knight of King Arthur, striving for good against the demons in their midst. The speed with which he had learned a few basic spells had only intensified these daydreams.

Now though, as he joined the queue at the Gatehouse for entry, icy jabs of reality punctured his new-found confidence. He was no knight errant, but a man with flesh that could be torn and blood that could be spilled. Luke peered round the people in front of him and his heart sank. Ulric Nutt, Captain of the Yeoman Guards, was on duty. 

Nutt had a reputation for corruption and bullying. With no pretence at discretion, he fingered through the case of satins and silks presented by a tailor’s assistant. The tailor, quick to offer the captain a length of netted cord adorned with spangles for your lady, sir, was waved through. The two guards on the huge doors immediately uncrossed their halberds to allow the visitors entry.

Luke glanced at those waiting behind him. Since news of the King’s ill health had been bruited abroad, the palace had become the focus for all manner of merchants and travellers, anxious to flock to court, waiting to take advantage of any opportunity for patronage or advancement such royal crises provoke. He wondered what had attracted the flamboyant group of actors behind him. A place of anxiety and grave faces was hardly the ideal setting for mummers.

Now there was only an old woman with a basket of rosemary sprigs between Luke and Nutt’s predatory scrutiny. Luke looked down into the eyes of Joss, his greyspring, no mere dog, but his constant companion and helpmeet. Only royal pets were permitted inside the confines of the palace. Luke had taken the precaution of smoothing shimmer oil through her coat. It would render her invisible to others, who, if they saw anything at all, would dismiss it as a shadow or gleam of light. The steadfast expression in her golden eyes gave him the courage he needed. He looked up as Nutt snarled at the old woman, thrust her away and turned to him with a swagger.

‘What d'you want, Ballard?’


Although the delay between the original series and the current book was unplanned, April refers to it as pure serendipity. 

She explains. ‘I wanted to write other books, so took time out to do that. But then, quite out of the blue, came a commission for a non-fiction Tudor book.’ By that time, April had regained her rights to the Tudor Enigma books and decided that, as they had originally been aimed at an American audience, she would edit and revise them to be truer to their British historical setting. The new book became Dangers of Destiny. ‘The commissioning editor for Pen and Sword Publishing had read and enjoyed the original novels and asked if I would consider writing a book on the Tudors. We agreed that crime and punishment in that era would make an interesting subject, and the contract was signed.’

Crime and Punishment in Tudor England: From Alchemists to Zealots was published in 2023. 

April goes on to say, ‘I have been contracted to write more for Pen and Sword.  The first volume of two on court favourites of the English monarchy has now been accepted. It covers the period from 1066-1485. Volume 2 will cover the Tudors and Stuarts.’

For more information about these books

Dangers of Destiny 

Crime and Punishment in Tudor England: From Alchemists to Zealots

Learn more about April and her writing HERE