The White Princess is fifth in The Cousin's War series revolving around the Plantagenet family. I read this series in the completely wrong or2.5 stars
The White Princess is fifth in The Cousin's War series revolving around the Plantagenet family. I read this series in the completely wrong order: book one, two, five, four, and then three. Somehow, it all still made sense! The latest release revolves around Elizabeth of York, King Edward IV's oldest daughter. Historically, we know her most famously for being the mother of Henry VIII, yet there aren't really many books that center around her, so this was exciting to pick up. Philippa and I have had our struggles in the past, but I still keep coming back for more.
In the series, we've left off right after Richard III is killed and Henry VII takes the throne. Elizabeth knows she comes as part of the package in Henry's ruling of England, but of course she's not eager to marry the man who stole her family's throne and killed her uncle. Henry certainly isn't a pleasant man in the beginning, especially in his treatment of Elizabeth (what an awful portrayal of a pretty decent guy in reality, Gregory definitely showing that she is a Ricardian). I never realized that most of Henry VII's reign was spent fighting off groups of Plantagenet sympathizers and false pretenders, especially those pretending to be Elizabeth's brothers who mysteriously disappeared years earlier. It's not surprising he was a tense and uptight man and it's no wonder that Henry VIII was so suspicious during his own time as king.
Elizabeth's married life seemed to consist of nothing but a husband at war and lots of babies. She certainly is a much more likable character than her mother, Elizabeth Woodville, who played a humongous part in every book in the series so far (though, oddly enough, scenes with mama Woodville were some of my favorites. She had spunk). This Elizabeth is more adept in living with the cards she was dealt, rather that manipulating those around her to get what she wants. With a childhood spent in hiding, most of her family members meeting tragic ends, an unwanted husband, a rocky time as Queen, and the loss of many of her children, Elizabeth had quite an interesting life, even if we don't see much of it in this book. She's pretty clueless throughout the entire book (she says "I don't know" at least 400 times and most of her dialogue is her simply repeating what was just said previously) and at times I felt her character was underdeveloped and that she was simply observing things around her rather than participating in them (boooringg).
Now I think Philippa Gregory writes wonderful fiction full of of action (okay, not so much in this one), intense characters, and vivid scenery and life, but I don't like how she pushes many of her speculations as historical fact and her tendencies to make things over-dramatic simply for the sake of a good book rather than historical accuracy (as if this period of time wasn't dramatic enough).. For instance, there's a BIG plot in The White Princess that Elizabeth was her uncle Richard III's lover (NO NO NO NO). There is only one tiny shred of historical evidence pointing to this and it's awkward to push this so heavily in a book (it's also a big point in the television show based on the series as well), especially if you're really only working with Richard's memory in this book and the 'love' is so sappy and puppydog-like.
Gregory's focus on Elizabeth and her female ancestors being descendants of a water goddess and consequentially sorceresses, if that's the right word, themselves is cool to an extent but mostly made me want to face-palm the entire time. The constant 'prophecies' Elizabeth kept relaying felt a little over the top - ("our family line will end with a red-headed girl," yeah yeah yeah). Still, I've enjoyed this series so far for what it is - FICTION (heavily twisted and imagined fiction as well). This was a good addition, even with a little debate and eyebrow-raising moments along the way - just don't take everything too seriously....more
Anne Easter Smith writes fascinating historical fiction about some of the most intriguing characters. People that you only read about in history booksAnne Easter Smith writes fascinating historical fiction about some of the most intriguing characters. People that you only read about in history books beautifully come to life in the pages of her books, and her newest, Royal Mistress, is no exception!
Royal Mistress mainly follows Jane Shore, a simple merchant's daughter who catches the eye of the Queen's son, Tom Grey. They are both married (or are about to be married) and Jane doesn't want to stoop to being his mistress, so they part ways. Several years later, after Jane's divorce (something that was a HUGE deal in this period of time), she this time catches the eye of Tom's stepfather, Edward, the King of England. Jane is older now and realizes that being a mistress to a high ranking man has many advantages. She becomes Edward IV's final and most beloved mistress, staying by his side for eight years until his death. Edward's brother, Richard, then claims the throne, and as a very moral man, he heartily disapproves of Jane and her background. Jane must struggle to survive using her wits in this turbulent and unstable time in England's history.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this period of time. I usually like to jump ahead and read about Henry VIII, but it's always great to come back to his ancestors. Edward IV and his family drama is more entertaining that any show on television. So much betrayal, jealousy, murder, secrets, and, depending on who you ask...incest. I liked that Royal Mistress told us this story through the eyes of several key players, though mostly through Jane, who was a fascinating woman. She truly did care for Edward, but she states that she never really loved him, as she truthfully had no choice in the relationship. It's such a realistic look at how mistresses felt. No romantization here, just reality. The only problem I had with the story was Jane and Tom's relationship: they meet two times before they part ways and see each other maybe another two times in the following ten years - yet Jane is forever hung up on how he is her "true love" and is convinced they could live happily ever after if only they could be together. She hardly knew him! I know their relationship is historically accurate but it just seemed so far fetched here. Still, overall, this was a fascinating read, not just for historical fiction buffs, but lovers of drama, romance, and books that keep you intrigued every page....more