Thomas Howard founded a dynasty and staked his place in history through a self-serving ruthlessness that allowed no rival to stand in his way. But the true rivals of the Tudor court were those who stood alongside him: his wife and his mistress, who would battle to the end for him.As Queen Catherine's maid, and daughter of the Duke of Buckingham, the future seems bright for Elizabeth Stafford. But when her father gives her hand to Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk, the spirited young woman must sacrifice all for duty. Yet Elizabeth is surprised by her passion for her powerful new husband. And when he takes on a mistress, she is determined to fight for her love and her honour. Nave and vulnerable, Bess Holland is easily charmed by the Duke of Norfolk, doing his bidding in exchange for gifts and adoration. For years, she and Elizabeth compete for his affections. But they are mere spectators to an obsession neither can rival: Norfolk's quest to weave the Howard name into the royal bloodline.The women's loyalties are tested as his schemes unfold - among them the litigious marriage of his niece Anne Boleyn to King Henry VIII. But in an age of ruthless beheading, no self-serving motive goes unpunished - and Elizabeth and Bess will have to fight a force more sinister than the executioner's axe.