Historical fiction is a genre I just can’t seem to keep away from. I have a dozen other physical books waiting to be read as well as several in my Nook but I had to have this one. Initially I watched a couple of episodes of the Starz series they made based on this book. At the time I didn’t even know it was based on a book but once I found out I had to have it.
What surprised me was how difficult this book was to find. I mean, a popular television series was made based on it and yet I had to dig to find a copy. I figured I could walk into my local library and pick it up or at least get it on interlibrary loan. Nope! I live in the greater DC area and no library in the county had a copy of this book. What the heck? I couldn’t get it on my nook, it wasn’t available on kindle or kindle unlimited, and at the time I couldn’t even find it on Thriftbooks! Of course, that made me just want to read it even more.
Once I finally got my hands on a copy, I could not put it down. Break at work? Read this book. Making dinner? Book in one hand, spoon in the other. Time for bed? Nope! Book on my lap. You know it is a good story when you lose sleep over it.
Through the pages I followed Elizabeth Woodville, the first commoner to become a Queen of England. She struck me as a highly intelligent, independent, and resourceful woman. Elizabeth’s story starts with her trying to get her land and property returned to her as they had been taken once her husband died in the war against King Edward. Who does she express her desire to get her property back to? King Edward. The man whose fault it was that her husband was dead. This took bravery and a great deal of cunning on her part. I tip my hat to you, Mrs. Woodville
However, once she did claim Edward’s attention and become queen (which was a bit of a scandal), her character progressively became far less likable. She went from a loving mother of two fatherless boys trying to reclaim what was hers to a conniving, plotting, distasteful queen. I feel I could make some pithy comments here regarding the history of the monarchy and how power corrupts but instead I will only leave this passive-aggressive note.
Non the less I felt for her. Throughout nearly all of her husband’s reign he was at war. Edward was away fighting battles and trying to secure his position beyond any shadow of a doubt and Elizabeth was home. She was trying to protect her family and her people. She was fiercely loyal and I can’t help but respect her for that. Elizabeth, even when she and her family were in sanctuary hiding from various threats to the crown, did all she could even resorting to spells in an attempt to keep her family safe.
Now, if you have a passing interest in the history of the time period you may recall the story of the princes in the tower. Elizabeth’s two sons, in a time of great upheaval with the crown at stake, were locked away in the tower of London by a usurper attempting to take the throne. The boys were never heard from again and there is no evidence as to what may have happened to them. It is assumed that they were murdered for political gain but there is no clear evidence to that. This book takes that story and gives it a little twist. While I found myself in tears over the violence against these innocent children Gregory also gave a little twist to the old history. I won’t spoil it for you, but it does slightly change the princes in the tower tale that many have come to know.
Anyway, I won’t give away any more of the plot here. I will say that there is a massive amount of political intrigue, family turmoil, war, death, and suspense. There are complaints out there that the plot is slow moving and that the author doesn’t give enough life to the story but I certainly didn’t have that impression. Gregory paints clear and attention demanding images in my head that give this work so much life! This is one of my favorite books and I can easily see myself re-reading it in the years to come. I hope that if you choose to pick this one up that a) you can find it far more easily than I did and b) that you enjoy it just as much if not more. Happy reading!