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The Wars of the Roses was a series of battles between the English houses of York and Lancaster vying for the throne. The tension between the houses had been present for generations with doubts of who was the rightful king being whispered with each passing decade. We mostly remember that one king died, his brother declared the king’s sons as illegitimate, and the sons disappear with rumors of murder that is still debated today.
This book is the “memoir” of one of the players in this drama that is usually mentioned only in passing. It is Cecylee (Cecily) Neville, Duchess of York. She is the mother of Edward IV and Richard III. She is the grandmother to Edward V and to the wife of Henry VII. Her husband was descended from Edward III. For the Duchess, her entire world is surrounded with royalty which means intrigue and drama. You’d think we’d have heard more about her and what part she played in the Wars of the Roses.
The viewpoint of this part of history has typically been for or against Richard III and his involvement in the missing heirs to the throne. This story takes the reader through a different passage and reveals a unique lens of the events during this time. It starts with the childhood of Cecylee when she is betrothed at a very young age to the future Duke of York. The reader follows her life and sees the royal court through her eyes and her experiences. It tends to be a little different than we usually see through the normal perspectives. She sees Elisabeth Woodville as a snake and manipulative. Most of the accounts I’ve read didn’t describe her in such bad terms. But it makes sense from the Duchess’ perspective.
I was intrigued by the new viewpoint. Several times as I read, I looked up the history of the event or a person. Things I had never realized or had forgotten was brought up in the book. It made me think. In the past, Richard III is evil. I never thought of how he got to be seen in that light. What had created the man that doesn’t have a very good reputation in history? This book explores the unknown and unanswered questions we have about that turbulent period.
The author creates vivid landscapes and settings that made me feel as though I was there without wasting time on unnecessary descriptions. I got the idea of what everything looked like and filled in the rest with my imagination.
The characters grew and developed before my eyes. The Duchess wasn’t bland. She was multi-faceted. Love and hate existed in one space. Sometimes the other characters seemed to be stuck in one role or characteristic, but it made sense as they are seen through her eyes. She might see one as just evil and only evil with no good within them. That was how the character was portrayed. It is all about Cecylee’s view of the world around her.
A great read that had me hooked to the very end. If you like historical fiction, check this out. You can get it here.