The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
Published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
One of the only heirs of the Lancaster line of the royal family, Margaret Beauford is a very important young girl, but still a powerless one. She is utterly convinced that she has a vocation and desperately wants to be a nun. As a young lady with royal blood in a time when the king is childless and perhaps slightly crazy, Margaret is not to have the luxury of choosing her own fate and going into a convent. Instead, she is expected to breed, to produce a son for the Lancaster line. Not only that, neither she nor her family have any say in who she is to marry. At twelve she is wedded to King Henry VI’s half-brother, the twenty-something Edmund Tudor. At thirteen, days after the death of her husband, Margaret gives birth to a son, Henry Tudor, and has a vision that he will one day be King of England. Suddenly, Margaret has a new vocation from God: seeing her son crowned.
Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl” is the novel that brought me to historical fiction in college, but much of her work after that went downhill, in my opinion. In fact, I disliked “The Other Queen,” so much (after purchasing it in hardcover), that I nearly swore her off completely. I’m glad I decided to give her another chance with her new series, The Cousin’s War. I thought that the first book in the series, “The White Queen,” was perhaps her best book since “The Other Boleyn Girl.”
“The Red Queen,” I think, is even better. Gregory still suffers from a bit of the repetitiveness that she showcased in “The White Queen,” but I think it came off better, and flowed more naturally in this book. Yes, Margaret did express her belief in her religious vocation ad nauseum in the beginning of the book in particular, but she was a very head strong young preteen and teenager, so it fit with her character. In fact, she was obnoxiously headstrong and self-righteous throughout the entire book. The fact that Gregory kept me enjoying “The Red Queen” as much as I enjoyed “The White Queen” with its much more sympathetic protagonist is what makes me say that this is actually the stronger book.
If you gave up on Gregory after some of her weaker Tudor books, try her Cousin’s War series. You can really start with either “The White Queen” or “The Red Queen,” but I recommend that you give it a try.