Elizabeth of York, the only living descendant of Edward IV, possesses the most precious thing in all of England - a legitimate claim to the crown. Two princes meet to determine a country's destiny: whoever wins will take Britain's most rightful heir as his bride and her kingdom for his own. On one side is her uncle Richard, the last Plantagenet King, whom she fears to be the murderer of her two brother's the would-be kings. On the other hand is Henry Tudor, the exiled king. Can he save her from a horrifying marriage to a cuthroat soldier.
Her mother was the beautiful woman who secretly captured a king's heart. Her father was a charismatic and handsome king whose brother was a loyal general, but who took the throne for his own. Her younger brothers disappeared in one of the enduring mysteries of the ages.
There are times when a book has a main character who just can't carry a story on their own, and for me, this book is one of those. Whilst Elizabeth of York was very important in her time, particularly as a marriageable young princess, she must have been a bit difficult to write about because in some ways it seem as though the interesting things happened around her instead of her being an active participant. Her story is interesting given the events that happened to people around her and her early life, but certainly her marriage appeared very much to be one of duty and is portrayed as being very lonely, despite the attempts from Henry's mother to welcome her into the family. Henry's mother is portrayed as a loving mother-in-law when everything else I have read about her suggests that she was controlling and overbearing. Elizabeth's own mother, Elizabeth Woodville doesn't come out of this portrayal too badly given the reputation that has carried through the ages.
Much of the content of the book revolves around what happened to the Princes in the Tower, as well as the two pretenders. One of the positives of this book for me is the way that the story of Perkin Warbeck is told. My interest has certainly been piqued, and I am definitely looking for more to read about him, and his life.
The other dominating character in the novel is that of Richard III - a love him or hate him kind of guy if ever there was such a thing! Many people are either strongly pro or strongly anti Richard, and there are many novels where you can clearly see the author's personal bias in the characterisation that they choose. In this novel it is almost as though Barnes tried to be even handed when it came to Richard III but instead comes off as inconsistent.
As we follow Elizabeth through her life we get brief glimpses of her children, the ill fated heir, Arthur and the dashingly sporty and handsome Henry but for me the book ends at a very strange point, very abruptly, and I think that this has flavoured my final rating of the book.
I received an ARC of this book from Sourcebooks. I have no idea if the blurb above ended up being the blurb on the final book but I really hope not! I am pretty sure that Elizabeth's sisters were living descendants of Edward IV, and I don't think Henry Tudor was an 'exiled king' when she married him.
Over the last couple of years I have been lucky enough to read a couple of Margaret Campbell Barnes' books that have been being republished by Sourcebooks. This was an okay read, but not as good as either Brief Gaudy Hour (about Anne Boleyn) or My Lady of Cleves (about Anne of Cleves). I am on the lookout for The King's Fool though, and if I can find them, will definitely read more from this author. I believe that another of the author's books is due to be rereleased next year.
I was interested to see on Fantastic Fiction that they have grouped Brief Gaudy Hour and My Lady of Cleves together with this book as part of a trilogy called Shadows of the Crown. Whilst the Tudor connection was obvious, I hadn't actually seen this title for the group of books before.
I'm glad that I have read this, but if I was asked to recommend a book by this author, I would start with one of the others.
Elizabeth is daughter of Edward IV and niece to Richard III. When her father dies, it is her brother who is to take the crown. However, Richard III decides that the only one suitable to be King is himself. He sends both of Elizabeth's brothers to the tower to be held. Richard has his coronation and all of a sudden Elizabeth's brothers go missing and are presumed dead.
Many think that Richard III ordered their disposal . Now Elisabeth is the only living descendent to Edward IV and should be the rightful Queen. Elizabeth is horrified when Richard III proposes marriage to her. Not only is she convinced that he murdered her brothers but he is her uncle, after all!
There is much plotting and it is decided that she must marry Henry Tudor and that he must fight Richard III for the crown. The first attempt fails but eventually Richard III is killed and Henry Tudor becomes Henry VII. However, he doesn't hold up his end of the bargain to marry Elizabeth and give her a coronation to become queen of England. Eventually, due to public and private pressure he makes good and marries Elisabeth. However, he does not make her queen until after she has their first son.
The marriage itself, is loveless. Elizabeth has romantic notions that they would grow to love each other and have a passionate one. Henry doesn't seem to know what romance is and seems incapable of love. He couples with her only to produce heirs. Poor Elizabeth longs for more out of life.
This book was first published in 1953. Sourcebooks has re-published it and it is due out in the United States on October 1, 2009. I'm glad they did. Barnes has a way with words and I love some of her descriptions of the time and place. I must admit, that there are a few places that I would nod off to sleep while reading it. Some of the time that Elizabeth interacted with her mother seemed boring to me. It took me a good 50 pages to finally get drawn into the story.
That said, I am glad I stuck with it. I learned more about the period and really enjoyed it, once it got going. If you like historical fiction and are interested in this important period in English history, you will enjoy this book.