The White Princess by Philippa Gregory – Mini Book Review

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory
Published by Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Hey guys, I don’t really have time to write much this week, but The White Princess came out a week ago already and I wanted to give you some quick thoughts. This is a continuation of Philippa Gregory’s Cousins’ War series (I previously reviewed the following other books in the series: The White Queen, The Red Queen, The Lady of the Rivers, The Kingmaker’s Daughter, and the nonfiction companion Women of the Cousins’ War). In this book she focuses on the eldest daughter of Edward IV, the wife of Henry Tudor (Henry VII), and the mother of Henry VIII, Elizabeth of York. If you want more information about what is contained in the story, you can see the feature I wrote about it for the SheKnows Book Lounge.

A couple thoughts:

  • Gregory’s Elizabeth was in love with her uncle, Richard III and, in fact, even carried on a love affair with him (before this book begins, obviously, since he is dead by the opening pages). This is not outside the realm of possibility, since there were rumors at the time he was planning to marry her. However, I thought we were reminded of this fact just a little too often at the beginning of the book, where seemingly every mention of Richard was followed by something along the lines of “my lover.” Luckily that went away before too long, particularly as Elizabeth began to find her way in her marriage to Henry Tudor.
  • What makes The White Princess really special is the level of conflict Gregory introduces that is internal to Elizabeth. She finds herself stuck initially between her mother (and her missing or dead brothers who should have inherited the throne) and her husband. This may not seem like such a conundrum as she didn’t exactly marry for love, but once she has a son who is set to inherit the throne from her husband, Elizabeth’s life becomes much more difficult. There are so many rebellions and pretenders to the throne around and Elizabeth has to work out for herself where her loyalties truly lie. Although this is a major theme, each time it is presented in a new enough way that it doesn’t seem redundant, just ever more heartbreaking for Elizabeth.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.

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The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory – Book Review

The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory
Published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

This is the fourth novel in Philippa Gregory’s The Cousins’ War series. I previously reviewed the three novels – The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Lady of the Riversas well as the nonfiction companion The Women of the Cousins’ War. This review contains no particular spoilers of any of the other books.

Often when we think of the Wars of the Roses we think of Edward IV, Richard III, the Princes in the Towers, Henry Tudor, and perhaps Margaret of Anjou. At times we also think, although briefly, of the spouses of these personages. There is one larger-than-life figure, though, that is often forgotten: Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, a man also known as The Kingmaker.

Warwick helped put Edward on the throne but later – after he realized he was not to rule the country through Edward – orchestrated uprisings attempting to put Edward’s brother George on the throne and even trying to reinstate the House of Lancaster. It is worth noting that before trying to elevate either George or Prince Edward of Lancaster Warwick married one of his daughters to the man in attempt to give himself a more direct role to becoming the power behind the throne.

In The Kingmaker’s Daughter, Gregory continues her focus on the women on all side of the Wars of the Roses, also known as The Cousins’ War by telling the story of Warwick’s younger daughter, Anne Neville. I am not going to rehash the events of the novel, as those familiar with the history will have an idea of what they are already and those who are not will likely find any description to contain spoilers. I will say, though, that I think The Kingmaker’s Daughter is my favorite novel of the series thus far. Most of the time when one reads a fictional representation of Anne is is depicted as all but too sweet to live, fading away first behind the strength and personality of those around her and then even more so after the death of her son. Gregory’s Anne, however, is a strong young woman with ambitions of her own. This Anne may still be a frequent pawn of the major players around her, but she does have her own agenda, even if she does not always have the practical power to carry it out. This characterization of Anne is incredibly convincing for a girl who is the daughter of a man called The Kingmaker, a man determined to be a power player in the English court.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter is an engaging work of historical fiction with a novel and convincing twist on a familiar historical period. Highly recommended.

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In honor of this, the latest release in Philippa Gregory’s The Cousins’ War series I did a roundup of some of my favorite Wars of the Roses books at SheKnows.com: Historical Fiction Beyond Anne Boleyn: The Wars of the Roses

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Edelweiss.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory – Book Review

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
Published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

This is the third book in Philippa Gregory’s The Cousin’s War series. I have also reviewed the two previous books, The White Queen and The Red Queen. Each book stands alone, and none of the reviews contain spoilers for the other books.

Both a friend and attendant of Lancastrian Henry VI’s queen Margaret of Anjou and the mother of Yorkist Edward IV’s wife Elizabeth Woodville, Jacquetta of Luxembourg was a complex and complicated medieval woman. Unlike so many women she was able to marry for love – at least the second time – and had a large, apparently close-knit family. Perhaps at another time in England’s history Jacquetta might have had a peaceful life at court and with her family, but her family began to come of age at a time when the houses of Lancaster and York were locked in a deadly battle for control of England, battle that caused everyone to reexamine their loyalties and choose sides.

So overall, I really like The Lady of the Rivers. It is classic Gregory, very engaging, if not always particularly historically accurate (although we now know that she isn’t too concerned by that allegation). I was sucked in, very interested about Jacquetta’s story, particularly since she is all but ignored in most historical fiction. But you guys, oh my gosh, the repetition. I don’t know whether this is a case of her being a big enough superstar not to have to accept edits or editing not being done very carefully on her books because she is a superstar who will sell no matter what, but at the beginning of the book in particular, she would describe the same thing in the same way multiple times in a few pages, or even on the same page. On particularly egregious example includes the same phrase being used twice in as many paragraphs.

“It is home, he says simply. “And even at its worst, one acre of England is worth ten square miles of France.”

I look at him blankly. “All you Englishmen are the same,I tell him. You think that you are divinely blessed by God for no better reason than you had the longbow at Agincourt.”

He laughs. “We are,” he says. “We think rightly. We are divinely blessed. And one acre of England is worth ten in France.” (emphasis mine)

I suppose that wasn’t exactly the same thing two paragraphs later, since he assessment changed by the magnitude of a mile to an acre, but you get the drift.

The good news is that either this repetitive ridiculousness stopped after about the first hundred pages or Gregory pulled me deeply enough into Jacquetta’s story that I didn’t notice. I do wish, however, that The Lady of the Rivers had been released as the first book in this series. There were parts in The White Queen where Jacquetta seemed almost cartoonish, her magic overdone. I think Gregory has tempered that picture and made her a much fuller character in The Lady of the Rivers, and I think The White Queen would have been improved with that additional knowledge both on Gregory’ part, and the part of the reader.

Gregory fans, this is no The Other Queen debacle, pick up it. Those of you not already acquainted with Gregory’s work, pick it up if you are in the mood for fun, absorbing historical fiction and aren’t too worried about strict adherence to known historical facts – and if you can bear a little repetition.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham – Book Review

The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham
Published by Sourcebooks

Along with another French-born woman, Isabella the She-Wolf of France, Margaret of Anjou is probably one of the most hated queens of English history. Frequently referred to as the ‘French bitch’ in practically every War of the Roses book I have ever read, she is finally getting the chance to tell her own side of the story in Susan Higginbotham’s “The Queen of Last Hopes.” Quite a story it is, too, having to defend her mad husband’s throne and her son’s birthright against usurping royal cousins.

Higginbotham has certainly matured in her prose since her first book, “The Traitor’s Wife.” I think that her plotting has improved as well, “The Queen of Last Hopes” kept a good pace over the entire 320 odd pages. I will also say for Higginbotham, that she does a fabulous job presenting her subject in a realistic and sympathetic manner. I have always hated Margaret of Anjou as she appears in works of historical fiction, but Higginbotham made me examine the circumstances surrounding her infamy, which were really very sympathetic. Most of the War of the Roses fiction lately has a decidedly Yorkist slant to it and starts with or after the deaths on the battlefield of Edward IV’s father and older brother, which tends to elicit sympathy for Edward’s cause, but going back farther to examine the events leading up to the war has given me some pause in my own Yorkist leanings. Although, if you’re interested, I’m still not really pro-Lancaster because their reign started with the murder of another anointed ruler. I am not a scholar, though, these are just my personal thoughts.

Of course, any book that makes someone reexamine considered beliefs is, in some senses at least, a good one, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily unequivocally good. The greatest strength of “The Queen of Last Hopes” was the fully fleshed out character of Margaret, which is why it was so disappointing to see Higginbotham weakening the book by letting other characters narrate from time to time. Over the course of the book, four different men, including Henry VI and their son, Edward, were given chapters to narrate. Some of them received but one, some of them narrated multiple chapters. Unfortunately, this was not done with any particularly great style. Perhaps if their chapters had been at more regular intervals and of more regular lengths, and if the transitions from man to man had been done in a way to add to instead of detract from the book’s structure, it could have worked. As it was, however, I found the men’s chapters to be at best a  distraction from Margaret, who was truly at the heart of the book. At worst, they were lazy storytelling, taking chapters where it was simply most convenient to impart events which Margaret did not witness firsthand.

Overall I mostly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to those looking to experience this familiar story from a Lancastrian point of view, but I am disappointed that it was not as strong as it could have been.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory – Book Review

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.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

This review was done with a book received from the publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.