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Heroines of Historical Novels by Anne Easter Smith

“I use the skeleton of history. The history of the time and the people who made that history. That is the skeleton of my books, but then what happens, I elaborate on that with dialog and themes…” AES

Rose for the CrownA Rose for the Crown, By Anne Easter Smith
-Kate Haute, the little-known mistress of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III., and mother of his children.

This story is told from the view of Kate Haute, a lively and happy young girl from humble beginnings. She saw Richard of Gloucester as a friend, a lover and a good father to their illegitimate children. As the years go by, Kate more and more prefers privacy for herself and her children, even though they could be kept in a style befitting Richard’s status. Kate’s early upbringing and her morals, just did not allow her to parade in public as his mistress, especially once he married Anne Neville.

I enjoyed this book, it was entertaining and it brought a ‘new’ person into the world of the Yorks, Lancasters, Nevilles, etc. Ms. Smith once again made 600 pages fly by with her attention to detail, explanations of court protocol, as well as describing the day to day activities during the 1400s.

Daughter YorkDaughter of York, By Anne Easter Smith
-Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy, and sister of Edward IV, had everything any woman could want.

Margaret becomes a political pawn for her brother, King Edward IV, but this is no surprise for her. She was brought up to understand her place in the York family, that being duty to Country and Crown. Marg of York, sis of E4 Margaret is in love with Anthony Woodville, brother to Queen Elizabeth (Woodville), her brother’s wife, however she is betrothed to Charles of Burgundy.

In her role as a royal European duchess, Margaret was well respected for her intelligence and a clear understanding of politics. After the death of her husband, Margaret truly became invaluable to Burgundy. To her stepdaughter, Mary, now Duchess of Burgundy, she gave guidance and support. After the death of her brothers, Margaret of York supported anyone willing to challenge Tudor, and backed both Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck, even going so far as to acknowledge Warbeck as her nephew, the younger son of Edward IV, the Duke of York.

One interesting piece of history added to this story is the introduction of the printing press by William Caxton, a tradesman, who came into contact with the household of Margaret of Burgundy. She became his patron and in 1474 he published the first book printed in the English language, “Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye”.

Ed4 & family
Caxton showing the first specimen of his printing to King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth at the Almonry, Westminster

The characterizations for this book are wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and understand Margaret, due to the expert research Ms. Smith puts into her work. Truthfully this is one of the very few books I’ve read more than once because of the interesting subject, the flow of the story line, and the character, one that I’d like to know more about. Sometimes it’s hard to remember this is fiction, yes based on history, but the author does take liberties at times.

KingsGrace

The King’s Grace, By Anne Easter Smith
-Grace Plantagenet, illegitimate daughter of King Edward IV

So who was Grace Plantagenet? She has only one mention in history, the fact that she rode on the funeral barge of Queen Elizabeth (Woodville). Obviously this gives an author a wide range to work with. Ms. Smith, as always, rises to the task giving a believable scenario. As a illegitimate daughter of a King, Grace, a shy, lovely young girl grows to womanhood during turbulent times. She’s lucky enough to be brought to court by her father and his wife, Elizabeth takes Grace to be a lady-in-waiting. As life goes, Edward dies, but Grace continues to stay with Elizabeth for many years to come. During these times, she learns what it’s like to be part of the royal family, which is not as glamorous as it seems from the outside.

Once again the research on everything from dresses to swords to politics is detailed and well presented. This is any easy read, not as much war and battle, but anyone with an interest in this time period will enjoy the book.

royal mistressRoyal Mistress, By Anne Easter Smith
-Jane Shore, mistress of Edward IV


Jane Shore’s Role in Royal Mistress,
SimonSchuslerVideos discussed by A.E.S
.

Jane Shore, a mistress to King Edward IV. True name Elizabeth Shore. She was well brought up, and married young to William Shore, a goldsmith. She attracted the notice of Edward IV, and soon after 1470, leaving her husband, she became the king’s mistress. Edward called her the merriest of his concubines, and she exercised great influence. After Edward’s death she was mistress to William Hastings, and may perhaps have been the intermediary between him and Elizabeth Woodville. After Hastings’ execution, Jane became the mistress of Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset, son of Elizabeth Woodville by her first husband.

Once again a detailed research project translates into a good book, where relationships are developed, hearts are on fire, and hearts are broken.

queen by rightQueen By Right, By Anne Easter Smith
-Cecily, Duchess of York, mother of Edward IV & Richard III

Cicely was the youngest of the 22 children of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmoreland and Countess Joan Beaufort. Her maternal grandparents were John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (and third son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault) and Katherine Swynford. Cecily Neville is the ancestor of every English monarch from Edward IV to present day.

Cecily married her childhood friend, Richard, Duke of York. Their marriage was a love match, unusual for those times, but it was their strength together as a united front that was supportive to Richard as he challenged the crown.


CecilyNeville
By 1485 Cicely was alone. Her husband and three sons had died in The War of the Roses. Devoting herself to religious duties late in life, Cicely Neville died in 1495 at the incredible age of 80 years!

What do I think about his book? I was totally immersed in the life and times of the York family, with Cecily holding the family together, loving and protecting each of them, while at the same time running the castle. Not much different than mothers today. Ms. Smith really set the stage for a deeper understanding of the War of the Roses. The details of each character makes them come alive on the page and once again the research pays off by delivering another well told tale of historical fiction.

 

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The Cousins’ War Trilogy by Philippa Gregory

An exceptional trilogy, bringing to life the Plantagenet and York families and their continued quest for the crown of England. Philippa Gregory is one of my favorite authors for historical fiction. Her character development is good..always insights as to how these people got to their place in life..what drove them, what held them back, and how the changing world affected them.

As a lover of English history (which started from the time I first visited York Cathedral as a very young child), I think of the War of the Roses, like a climbing rose bush..so many shoots, so many buds, so many beautiful roses, but oh so many thorns, as well. The most important aspect of this trilogy for me, is that I can put into prospective who’s a red Lancaster/Tudor and who’s a white York. But in the end the whole civil war is depressing, as is any civil war, so many lost lives.

The following is a narration from Philippa Gregory about the women of The Cousins’ War, Jacquetta Woodville, Elizabeth Woodville, and Margaret Beaufort.

 

riversThe Lady of the Rivers

The Lady of Rivers is the story of Jacquetta, Dowager Duchess of Bedford, now known also as Jacquetta Woodville is the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s wife & queen. Jacquetta is said to be descended from the river goddess, Melusina, and has the power of ‘second sight’. This connection to witchcraft follows her through life, always clouding peoples’ judgment of her, her family, and in particular her daughter’s rise from commoner to queen.

I particularly enjoyed this book, because I did not know about the Woodville family and their matriarch. The story was fast moving, informative, but since it is fiction, I found that I needed to know more about Jacquetta. Sometimes it’s hard to determine what’s fact and what’s fiction, but the more you read, compare, and investigate, the more you understand where an author turns to fictional additions to the story.

whiteThe White Queen

The White Queen is the story of Elizabeth Woodville, an extraordinarily beautiful young widow, a commoner, self-centered , and with an ambition that has no bounds. As some would say, she used trickery or witchcraft to lure Edward IV to marry her and make her his queen. Once in this exalted royal position Elizabeth used her power to promote her family and do away with the enemies she creates along the way. One of the most unfortunate turns in English history is the imprisonment and disappearance of her two sons, known as the “princes in the tower” . Elizabeth is, however, a survivor, by whatever manipulative means she can find and use to her advantage. After the marriage of her daughter to Henry Tudor, Elizabeth believes her right as dowager queen, and mother of the present queen, gives her ‘rights’. At the end of her life she finally reaps what she has sown.

Elizabeth waiting for King Edward
under the oak tree

This piece of the trilogy puzzle is also a favorite of mine. It’s a must read to see the entire picture of these fascinating times and particularly the part the women play. The expression comes to mind ‘behind every good man there’s a woman’. Well in this case there certainly is, one with a driving force of ambition giving over to cruelty. Ms. Gregory once again gives a wonderful character development for Elizabeth Woodville, it makes the story come alive and I wanted/needed to know how this woman would fare. I did find that some points were not in keeping with history, but it is a fiction novel.

OMG…a trailer from the upcoming mini-series of The White Queen..can’t wait!

redThe Red Queen

The Red Queen is the story of Lady Margaret Beaufort who is betrayed as unlikeable, driven, a piety to match no other. Margaret devotes her entire life to the belief that her family should wear the crown, that they are the true royals and her son, Henry Tudor will be the king. She is a master at intrigue, liaisons, and treason to further ‘the true cause’. Margaret all but imprisons her daughter-in-law Elizabeth , Queen to Henry VII, in order to maintain control. The ultimate, and one the first, control freaks in history.

The story of Lady Margaret intrigued me. I did not know her story so, of course, I looked up more books on her and now see another side of the ‘war’. I think that any book that pushes you to seek further knowledge about the subject..must be a good book. I highly recommend this book, it’s a rich drama about desperate people in desperate times, which most of the time they create themselves. These three books are an easy read and a must for lovers of historical fiction set in the 1400s

Lady Margaret Beaufort

Lady Margaret Beaufort

For more insight on Lady Margaret Beaufort watch the following videos by Philippa Gregory.

 

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