Jan 3, 2011

Book Review: The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham

The Queen of Last Hopes: The Story of Margaret of Anjou by Susan Higginbotham
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (January 1, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-1402242816
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:A Fantastic Reading Experience!
It would be called the Wars of the Roses, but it all began with one woman's fury...
Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England, cannot give up on her husband-even when he goes insane. And as mother to the House of Lancaster's last hope, she cannot give up on her son-even when all England turns against him. This gripping tale of a queen is at its heart a tender tale of love: passionate, for her husband, and motherly, for her only son.

The Wars of the Roses has been my favorite period to read about during the last two years. Following that would be the Tudor era, but the battles between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists are always full of passion and from so many points of view that I have not been bored yet after reading many books on the era. I will not recount the events of the novel as there are many characters and titles to decipher that is hard to keep up with. Using a few key players, such as the fatherly Suffolk, the must've-been-handsome Henry Beaufort or the seemingly murderous Yorkist factions, Higginbotham retraces Margaret's story with a passion and talent as Higginbotham gives Margaret's name a new found respect. Wars of the Roses fans know what is to happen by the end of Margaret's story, but will they be sympathetic of Margaret of Anjou or to the Yorkists that stole the crown from her husband?

I will say that I haven't had a desire to read for a day straight in months, yet I am honored that Higginbotham broke me from that sad fact with her story of Margaret of Anjou and the fruitless fight to put her son Edward on the throne of England. Once I had a chance to get 70 pages into the story, I could not put it down; I was so entertained by Higginbotham's telling of Margaret's story which is why I endowed the five star rating. Even knowing what historical tragedies would play out in the story, I was hooked and enamored with Margaret. In previous reads, Margaret is normally referred to as merely the Frenchwoman, the whore, the witch.. and finally we have a much more pleasant view of this consort of the saintly Henry VI. Their son Edward of Lancaster had always been in the background of my previous reads, as he had never gotten the chance to make his mark on England. Yet, the way Higginbotham tells it, readers of her newest Wars of the Roses novel will never forget Edward of Lancaster and the throne that should not have been stolen from him; and one cannot but wonder if only he had been successful in the Lancastrian cause...

If you had not chosen a side before, either Lancaster or York, be prepared to become Lancastrian. I had never felt Yorkist in nature, and this novel solidifies my Lancastrian leanings for me once again. Margaret of Anjou will undoubtedly gain much earned respect through this telling, as she was loyal to the country that she married and the man who was England's rightful king. She held fast in her resolve even when others would have given up, and I am not ashamed to admit that Higginbotham's novel of Margaret and her fight for the Lancastrian cause brought me to tears. Perhaps the story sheds too much of a positive light on Margaret, but to give the novel further credit, it is told with multiple points of view which helps round out and personify the events for the reader and for once, a multiple narration did not grate at my nerves as it is known to do.

Susan Higginbotham's writing has an easy conversational feel to it, while deftly imparting detailed historically significant events throughout which makes Higginbotham a favorite historical fiction author of mine. The three novels of hers that I have read have all been read quickly by me, just short of devouring them. I appreciate the fact that although she takes some liberties with the historical accounts, she stays well within the realms of accuracy, and when she strays she explains both herself and history in the author's note. I have nothing to say to criticize this novel, and am pleased to recommend this novel to any history fan interested in some of the struggles during the Wars of the Roses and how the Tudors came to their eventual throne. Readers will become immersed in the quest for the rightful owner of the crown of England, as history's mysteries also seep through to help add to the titillation of the reader.

See my previous reviews and guest post from the author here at this link.