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Feb 23, 2009

"The Rose of York: Love and War" by Sandra Worth

This book is the first of a series by Sandra Worth, published in 2003 about the Wars of the Roses. For those who do not know, The Wars of the Roses was a period in England of civil wars from about 1450-1485. Its origins began before 1450 with much civil unrest. The term 'Roses' signify the white rose of the Yorks, the red rose of the Lancastrians. Both of these houses were direct descendants of Edward the III and began to fight for the crown. The Lancastrian King Henry VI had become unpopular along with the company he chose. This caused much civil unrest, along with the fact that King Henry was displaying periods of mental illness. There were many people involved, which becomes confusing to the average reader; therefore, if this is an introduction to this period I would suggest reading this novel first before delving into the many confusing facts of the non-fiction counterparts. About halfway through it starts to get muddled with the names/titles; the switching sides on the factions for Lancastrians versus the Yorkists occurs often. You definitely need to have your thinking cap on for that aspect which is why I suggest starting with this novel before tackling an informative non-fiction encyclopedia style book.
Upon reading this novel, I was immediately engrossed in the story of the small boy Richard who is forced to deal with life and death at a young age. This small boy Richard from the House of York is actually who we know as Richard, Duke of Gloucester, brother to King Edward, who later becomes known as Richard III. He feared the "Bitch of Anjou", Queen Marguerite (Margaret) who his family was fighting against. She is the one who was pulling the strings of her husband, Henry IV who was mentally unstable. The book opens where Edward has defeated King Henry, and thus Edward becomes King Edward IV, of the frightened boy's aspect of recently losing a well-loved father (Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York) in 1460 at the battle of Wakefield, and a brother and Neville cousins. I've had this book for awhile and although enjoying the Wars of the Roses period very much, I did not think I was going to be sympathetic to the man who has been accused of murdering the famed Princes in the Tower (his nephews, heir to the throne). After reading a few of Alison Weir's books on the subject, and a book on Elizabeth Woodville by David Baldwin, my brain was inundated with names and titles and dates and multiple facts and theses. Therefore I was not in a rush to pick it up. Again, I was mistaken. I was so enthralled with this young Richard, I could not wait for my lunchtimes and bedtimes to continue his story and learn what was happening in the world around him.
This is specifically the story of Richard growing from a young boy to a knight, and a sensitive young man in love with Anne Neville, Warwick's daughter. Richard Neville, aka Warwick the Kingmaker, helped Edward reach his throne, yet the new King did not honor many of the wishes of Warwick and treated him disrespectfully. This novel gives you a sense of the instability, the emotional tension between fighting for inner beliefs and family pride vs. loyalty to the royal crown. This story defines the true meaning to the phrase "Love and War".
The action picks up when Richard's brother, Edward IV, secretly marries Elizabeth Woodville, who was a widow from the gentry class with two boys of her own. This marriage angered Warwick and the nobles greatly. The Woodvilles were a huge family whom upon this marriage had received many honors, titles and arranged marriages for the clan, which made them even more hated by Edward's Yorkists. Some even believed Elizabeth and her mother Jacquetta were witches for the way that Edward readily responded to their requests. It is interesting to note that the first child of Edward and Elizabeth is none other than Elizabeth of York, who was married to the Lancastrian Henry VII, and from this marriage produced our beloved Henry VIII.
When Warwick and his family of Neville's decide to rebel, Richard's chances with Anne Neville decrease. Richard is loyal to his brother the King, although makes him choose against Warwick, who was a pseudo-father to him. The book deals with the anger and resentment between the multiple clashing families and although informative it is not complete drivel. As noted, it tends to get heavy with the the names and the titles and loses some of the flow halfway through but the story is compelling enough to make you concentrate as you go on. I feel the book climaxed with the Battle of Barnet in 1471 which was so compelling it twisted my heart. I do not want to give away the plot to those who do not know the whole story, so I'll end it here.

I found the writing to be eloquent, and I found the imagery of Richard's surroundings to be well described without feeling too poetic or contrived. It really had a great flow from one chapter to the next, each beginning with its own little ominous and overshadowing quote. I very much liked this depiction of Richard III, and look forward to the rest of the series as well. The author's note is informative also and I may add some of the books she mentions to my TBR pile as well.

I highly recommend this book!

The The Rose of York series titles are as follows:

1. Love and War

2. Crown of Destiny

3. Fall From Grace

Sandra Worth also wrote "Lady of the Roses:A Novel of the Wars of the Roses" in 2008 which is about Yorkist John Neville (who is featured in the current book) and Isobel, the ward of the hated Lancastrian Queen Marguerite D'Anjou.