This is my first read by Judith McNaught, but certainly not my last. A Kingdom of Dreams, book one in the Westmoreland Trilogy starts out in Scotland,This is my first read by Judith McNaught, but certainly not my last. A Kingdom of Dreams, book one in the Westmoreland Trilogy starts out in Scotland, during the medieval period, with the lovely, strong, and often defiant Jennifer Merrick. The oldest daughter of the Scottish Merrick Clan. Sent off to a nunnery cloister with her step sister because of her past and "untameable" ways as her family deemed, were in training to become nuns and wait to learn their fate in life by their father.
One evening, the girls walking along a hill side are abducted by a foe of Clan Merricks, the English to be used as a bargaining chip for surrender in battle. In particular the brother of the legendary Black Wolf. A secret fighting weapon of the British crown, the Black Wolf, or Royce Westmoreland, Duke of Claymore. His legendary and infamous status labeled him a dangerous, heartless killing machine, a killer of Scots and French.
What starts out as defiance and dislike between Jennifer and Royce grew to admiration and lust while Jennifer was a prisoner of Royce's camp turned to a trusting and caring relationship. However, this trust because the Duke was her family's foe, was broken when Jennifer's family rescued her, publicly making Royce a laughing stock of his country, it was the ultimate betrayal of trust at Jennifer's hands.
The trust between the hero and heroine as constantly tried and broken. Royce became a more humane caring person because he learned to care for and eventually love Jennifer. One thing that bugged me about this book was the fact that Jennifer was quick to harshly judge Royce, even after the King of Scotland and the King of England bade them to marry to settle both countries into peace and he did everything in his power not to come between Jennifer and her family, or harm her family. Yet, she trusted her evil and manipulating family and clan who was fickle and often times detested her and didn't care what happened to Jennifer in life.
Jennifer, finally learns that her family isn't what she thought and her husband is a valiant and worthy man of her and her love during a tournament comprised of the same Scottish, French, and English that were enemies on the battle field. Jennifer and Royce submit to and admit their love once Royce is gravely wounded at some back handed plotting by her family. Royce willingly accepts dying and will not raise a hand against her family. In the end Jennifer defies the evil her family wants her to commit, murdering her husband on the tournament battlefield in front of thousands. She is disowned, but accepted once again by her English people, and especially her husband to help rule her kingdom of dreams, something she always dreamed about as a child.
I have to start out this review with a disclaimer. This is a wonderful piece of historical fiction. The author, Philippa Gregory took facts and obscurI have to start out this review with a disclaimer. This is a wonderful piece of historical fiction. The author, Philippa Gregory took facts and obscure history to weave an exciting tapestry of power, greed, and betrayal set against the backdrop of the late medieval British court in the late 1400's.
Our heroine Elizabeth Woodville, comes from mostly humble origins with a uniqueness of her own. Her mother's Burgundy family are descendants of a water goddess, Melusina. Wishing, tricks and witchcraft do make recurring appearances in this book. Elizabeth starts out begging the new King, Edward IV for her deceased husband's land as an inheritance for her two sons. After this initial meeting, Elizabeth wins the heart of the new young King and they secretly marry. Edward is from the House of York that took the throne by force through war from King Henry of the House of Lancaster.
Throughout this book, King Edward has to constantly fight to keep his throne from the former King Henry and his plotting wife, Margret de Anjou. This is the first book of a War of the Roses trilogy. This war is also called the Cousin's war where cousins fight against cousins depending on loyalties and physical location in the kingdom. It also eventually turns into a brother's war, brothers fighting against brothers. King Edward not only has to constantly defend his throne and royal line, but he has to do so against his brothers George (who dies a traitor's death) and Richard (who betrays his loyalty to his brother and king) after his trusted adviser, the Kingmaker, Warwick decides to take his power and elevate himself or his family towards the throne once he no longer has control over what Edward does. Edward starts listening to his wife's advice.
I think a central theme in this book is women of incredible strength. It seems back then (a time period where enlightenment was just starting) in order to survive you had to have faith and a strong constitution to make it through life during a time when women were only valued for the heirs that they left. Women were seen as a commodity, and only worth the grave or a nunnery if they could not produce sons. Which was an incredible feat back then to survive childbirth, let alone have multiple children or even multiple sons. Elizabeth Woodville is with child almost every year to secure her husband's line and the Plantagenet rule. (Plantagenet rule was before Tudor rule, the Tudor royal line was established once the throne was fought and won). Being a strong woman was even more necessary to plan and plot to keep your family in power if you were Queen of England.
One way Elizabeth did this was through wishing, sometimes ill wishing, magic tricks, and the like taught by her mother. Sometimes it seemed like Elizabeth did not believe in this, but it gave her courage to do so. Other times in this novel, her wishing did help turn the tide in her family's favor, but always came back to her to ruin whatever goal she and her family were trying to achieve. Her family was never really safe from the curses and prayers she offered. Her mother and herself were accused of witchcraft at one point in the book.
After King Edward dies, we see Edward's sons, the Prince and soon to be King Edward and his brother Prince Richard in danger of their lives from their uncle (Edward IV youngest brother) who swore to be an adviser and protector until Prince Edward could rightfully rule by himself, now this uncle is a claimant as King himself. More battles are fought, new men rise to power, such as Henry Tudor and a Howard (Ann Boleyn's ancestor)set their sights from winning the throne for the young king, to then plotting for the throne themselves. Unfortunately the young king is lost, and presumed dead. His brother is put into safe hiding. The loss of Prince Edward is heart wrenching. The reader never knows for sure if he is alive or will be found. Elizabeth believes for the longest time that he cannot be dead, despite various rumors circulating the kingdom. Then she finally accepts that this must be so, that her oldest son will never be able to claim what is rightfully his. The end of the book closes with the return of Prince Richard to Elizabeth.
True to British court at this time and Gregory's writing we are caught up in an onslaught of constant plotting and intrigue. This really drives the book forward, without it, the novel would have dragged on, which it unfortunately does in some parts. I liked the paranormal aspect of Elizabeth, but felt at some parts I was reading two different books at the same time, the different aspects didn't always connect neatly. This being said, I rate this book a solid 3.5 stars out of 5 and recommend this book to any Gregory fan or someone looking for a solid British historical fiction to try. I am interested in checking out the next book in the series, The Red Queen, which is released August 19, 2010....more