Goodreads: Philippa Gregory, #1 New York Times bestselling author and “the queen of royal fiction” (USA Today), presents the latest Cousins’ War novel, the remarkable story of Elizabeth of York, daughter of the White Queen.
When Henry Tudor picks up the crown of England from the mud of Bosworth field, he knows he must marry the princess of the enemy house—Elizabeth of York—to unify a country divided by war for nearly two decades.
But his bride is still in love with his slain enemy, Richard III—and her mother and half of England dream of a missing heir, sent into the unknown by the White Queen. While the new monarchy can win power, it cannot win hearts in an England that plots for the triumphant return of the House of York.
Henry’s greatest fear is that somewhere a prince is waiting to invade and reclaim the throne. When a young man who would be king leads his army and invades England, Elizabeth has to choose between the new husband she is coming to love and the boy who claims to be her beloved lost brother: the rose of York come home at last.
This is really, really intense right from the start. You are catapulted right into the middle of Elizabeth's anguish over the death of her lover, and at first I thought I was going to love this, especially as you start out with a bang. I'm not going to talk about why this is a bad book, because I don't believe it is. I've read at least half of Philippa Gregory's novels, and I've always enjoyed them to varying degrees, so the writing in this is very much on par with her other novels. Instead, I'm going to talk about why this book was not for me personally.
I am horrified by the amount of rape in here. I wish I could say it was unnecessary, but as it is historical fiction there is a chance this happened, and it absolutely reflected the societal views of the time. So it is necessary. But even from the beginning I wondered if I would be able to make it through, and how on earth I was supposed to support these two characters falling in love. I don't care if it reflects societal norms, I can't support any man who repeatedly rapes someone. And beyond that, he's completely under his mother's thumb (and she tucks him into bed which is weird). But that's the least of my issues with Henry.
I also didn't realize there were so many books in this series! Having read Gregory's Tudor series in a completely random order, I feel like generally her books don't have to be read in a certain order. That being said, I do feel like it would enhance my understanding of what's going on and keeping everyone straight (WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DAMN ELIZABETH'S?!) Also Richard is her Uncle...that doesn't come clear unless you try and figure out all the relationships but ummm...I'm pretty sure even back then uncle/niece was not kosher? Maybe I'm wrong, and that's just super gross to me.
In general, my biggest issue with the book outside of the rapes that thankfully stop about half way through the book (maybe sooner), was simply that it was....boring. I don't deal well with books about obsession - while I appreciate the creepy bits of Edgar Allen Poe's writing, I don't particularly enjoy most of his stories. I thought Bellman & Black was THE WORST. I just can't get behind obsession! And this whole book is "Henry freaking out about potential boy/king guy and main character continues to be powerless". Seriously. That's the entire plot...and it's like it is on loop. THIS GOES ON LIKE 5 TIMES. I get it once, maybe even twice? But after that? I'm out.
None of this is on Philippa Gregory, except perhaps her choice in characters and time period, because honestly that's what happened (judging by my skilled Wikipedia searches). But reading a whole book about a woman who doesn't love (but sort of does?) her husband, who has no control over anything, focused on a man who is terrified/obsessed with a boy, is just not for me.
This book wasn't for me because of the subject matter, but it is otherwise what one expects from Philippa Gregory's writing. Like her? Read through this post and see if anything bothers you, and decide from there.