I have read several of Cowell’s novels and have only now come to her first, Nicholas Cooke. Cowell enters the Elizabethan world she knows so well from her studies and Renaissance festival experience to create Cooke, son of a hanged man and a prostitute, himself a refugee from the law fled from Canterbury to London and saved by Kit Morley, later apprenticed to John Heminges and friend to William Shagspere. Nicholas becomes one of the actors with Heminges’ troop, later a star of the Globe, but is always troubled by a calling to the priesthood for which he no longer feels fit. He runs away to war in Ireland with Essex and marries Heminges’ daughter and fathers several children , buys and tries to restore the chapel to which he fled as a young man, and then, finally, studies medicine and Oxford and receives ordination after befriending an ailing and aging bishop.
Cowell creates a complex and likeable protagonist and, in the process, made me fall further in love with Heminges, the man who seems to have kept so many geniuses together.
I regret that Nicholas is not a historical figure, but Cowell has made him so realistic that I’m sure somewhere there was a Nicholas Cooke, even if she did not find him exactly in the records.