Welcome to my monthly post on all things historical fiction!
I haven’t had much time to put a post together this month, so I thought I would just take a quick look at some of the books I have waiting on my TBR. On Friday I reviewed The Brothers York by Thomas Penn, a non-fiction account of the Wars of the Roses, which is one of my favourite periods of history. I have already read a lot of books, both fiction and non-fiction, set in that period and have listed them here, but there are a few others I’ve acquired over the last few years and haven’t had a chance to read yet. Here are some of them (with descriptions taken from Goodreads):
The Seventh Son by Reay Tannahill (2001)
Reay Tannahill’s enthralling novel is a family saga in the grand tradition, a tale of brother against brother, cousin against cousin, of love, hate and intrigue, of women inescapably entangled in the fates of their men, and of a mystery that has exercised people’s minds for more than five hundred years. At the heart of it all is the complex human being known to history as Richard III, a king whose reign is darkened by the murder of the young Princes in the Tower, but who also found a touching love with the woman he married, and possessed immense courage. Here, brought vividly to life in this most moving novel, is a man who inspired loyalty and hatred in almost equal measure, until at last the implacable enmity of one woman brought about his downfall.
The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)
Originally serialized in a periodical of boys’ adventure fiction, The Black Arrow is a swashbuckling portrait of a young man’s journey to discover the heroism within himself. Young Dick Shelton, caught in the midst of England’s War of the Roses, finds his loyalties torn between the guardian who will ultimately betray him and the leader of a secret fellowship, The Black Arrow. As Shelton is drawn deeper into this conspiracy, he must distinguish friend from foe and confront war, shipwreck, revenge, murder, and forbidden love, as England’s crown threatens to topple around him.
The King’s Grey Mare by Rosemary Hawley Jarman (1973)
The King’s grey mare was Elizabeth Woodville, Queen and wife of Edward IV. Beautiful beyond belief, with unique silver-grey hair, she had once known joy of a marriage based on love—only to see it snatched away on the battlefield. Hardened and changed by grief, Elizabeth became the tool of her evil ambitious mother—the witch, Jaquetta of Bedford—who was determined that her daughter should sit on the throne of England. By trickery, deception, and witchcraft, Jaquetta’s wish was fulfilled. But even a witch could not have known the tragedy which lay in store for the King’s grey mare.
Queen of Silks by Vanora Bennett (2008)
This novel brings together the silk business of fifteenth-century London and the personality of King Richard III, suspected throughout history of having murdered his two nephews, the Princes in the Tower. The story begins with silk merchant John Lambert’s decision to marry off his two beautiful daughters at the end of the Wars of the Roses. Elder daughter Jane starts a notorious liaison with King Edward IV – Richard’s older brother – while her sister, Isabel, as the new silkworker to the court, becomes privy to its most intimate secrets. Could the sisters hold the keys to power at this time of uncertainty?
The Lodestar by Pamela Belle (1987)
For Christie Heron, ruthless ambition is the lodestar of his destiny. Determined to break free from his humble origins in the border country of Northumbria, he enlists in the household of Richard of Gloucester, rising with his lord to the dangerous pinnacles of power. Tangled in Richard’s web of treason and tragedy, Christie learns the full price that his destiny demands, Meg his beloved sister and only friend, rejects him. Julian, daughter of a knight of Oxfordshire, bears him undying enmity. And the long shadow of the Welsh adventurer Henry Tudor falls dark over Bosworth Field….
The King’s Bed by Margaret Campbell Barnes (1961)
For seventeen-year-old Tansy Marsh, life centres upon her father’s inn, The White Boar, in Leicester. Richard III sits upon the throne of England, and all seems well. But the threat of the would-be usurper, Henry Tudor, looms like a gathering storm and soon the eye of that storm is uncomfortably close to Tansy, disrupting her reassuringly ordinary life. Once King Richard is defeated, that life becomes even less ordinary for Tansy has met Dickon Broome, the man who will change her existence forever. And while life goes on under the Tudors, Dickon has particular reason to bear a grudge.
Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou by Amy Licence (2018)
He became king before his first birthday, inheriting a vast empire from his military hero father; she was the daughter of a king without power, who made an unexpected marriage at the age of fifteen. Almost completely opposite in character, together they formed an unlikely but complimentary partnership. Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou have become famous as the Lancastrian king and queen who were deposed during the Wars of the Roses but there is so much more to their story. The political narrative of their years together is a tale of twists and turns, encompassing incredible highs, when they came close to fulfilling their desires, and terrible, heart-breaking lows.
Blood and Roses by Helen Castor (2004)
The Wars of the Roses turned England upside down. Between 1455 and 1485 four kings, including Richard III, lost their thrones, more than forty noblemen lost their lives on the battlefield or their heads on the block, and thousands of the men who followed them met violent deaths. As they made their way in a disintegrating world, the Paston family in Norfolk family were writing letters – about politics, about business, about shopping, about love and about each other, including the first valentine. Using these letters – the oldest surviving family correspondence in English – Helen Castor traces the extraordinary history of the Paston family across three generations. Blood & Roses tells the dramatic, moving and intensely human story of how one family survived one of the most tempestuous periods in English history.
If you’ve read any of these books, let me know what you thought. Which ones do you think are worth reading and which aren’t? What are your favourite books set in this period?