Susanna Dallet is the daughter of a Flemish painter and wife to a philandering husband, living in the court of Henry VIII. When her husband is murdered, Susanna is suddenly left with a household to provide for and nothing to her name. Her days of anonymity are over when Susanna finds that guild rules preventing women from working do not apply at the king’s court, and she manages to secure a position as a miniature-portrait painter. Before long, she has not only made a name for herself, she is close to those who surround Princess Mary. But even in this lofty company, Susanna is not safe....
Margaret of Ashbury wants to write her life story. However, like most women in 14th-century England, she is illiterate. Three clerics contemptuously decline to be Margaret’s scribe, and only the threat of starvation persuades Brother Gregory, a Carthusian friar with a mysterious past, to take on the task. As she narrates her life, we discover a woman of startling resourcefulness.
"Old fashioned heroine"
Margaret, a resourceful midwife, is living with the insufferable relatives of her third husband, Gilbert de Vilers, known as Gregory. She is carving out a life for herself and her daughters despite the hostility and greed of her in-laws. But when Gregory is captured in France and held for ransom, Margaret knows she must take action - her in-laws are too tight with money to be of any use - so she teams up with her old friends Mother Hilde, the herbalist, and Brother Malachi, an alchemist on a quest for the secret of changing base metals into gold.
"The miracles continue...."
For a handful of gold, Madame de Morville will read your future in a glass of swirling water. You'll believe her, because you know she's more than 150 years old and a witch, and she has all of Paris in the palm of her hand. But Madame de Morville hides more behind her black robes than you know. Her real age, the mother and uncle who left her for dead, the inner workings of the most secret society of Parisian witches: None of these truths would help her outwit the rich who so desperately want the promise of the future.
It is 1556 and the queen's astrologer, the prophet Nostradamus has uncovered a secret that could destroy the kingdom of France. The queen, Catherine de Medicis, a dabbler in black magic, has decided to get rid of the king's mistress by seeking out the legendary Undying Head of Menander the Magus, known as the Master of All Desires. But she does not know that evil befalls all those who wish upon this accursed object. And the head, in its coffer, has fallen into the possession of a charming, wryly perceptive but stubborn young woman: Sybille Artaud de la Roche.
"Second half was much better than the first."
Margaret of Ashbury is ready to settle down; the medieval healer is looking forward to an uneventful life in the country. And, indeed, life with her true love and a brood of rambunctious children is nearly perfect—except for her husband Gregory’s ever-meddling family. Finding himself deep in debt once again, Gregory’s father has plotted to sell Margaret’s daughter off in marriage to save his woodlands from a greedy abbot.