LADY OF THE ROSES
Berkley Books, Jan 2008
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood
English, 15th Century
Sir John Neville, an important supporter of the Yorks, falls in love with Isobel Ingoldesthorpe, a ward of Queen Marguerite of the Lancasters. John and Isobel know that it won't be easy for a York and a Lancaster to get permission to wed, but "swept off their feet" are mild words for their love.
Queen Marguerite, ruling on behalf of her mad husband, demands a high price for her favorite ward. But not only does Isobel love her husband, her tie with Marguerite can save his life. It is a wise investment for the Neville family. Through the tides of political fortunes that raise and lower the Nevilles, we follow Isobel's life.
Author Sandra Worth's readers first met John Neville in her trilogy The Rose of York. Honorable, handsome, wise, and loyal, he is the ideal hero for a story that, so far as I know, has never been written before. On Isobel there is very limited information. Something as basic as the spelling of her name varies even within the text of LADY OF THE ROSES. But the available evidence indicates that the strength of their love is genuine.
The first half of LADY OF THE ROSES is purely a romance (assuming you forget the prologue). The starry-eyed wording is intended to sweep you off your feet and often does. Isobel and her trusty maid make desperate but surely fictional gallops to save John's life. It is after they are married that the book turns into a historical novel. That is when Isobel becomes a part of the Neville family's intrigues to rule England.
In case you haven't read The Rose of York, we meet the big players of that series as Worth has discovered them in her years of research: John's brother and England's hero the Earl of Warwick, Edward IV and his brother Richard, their mother Cecily Neville, the vicious and mentally degenerating Queen Marguerite, and an Elizabeth Woodville even more vivid than before. Richard saw the Woodville queen as the bitch who was corrupting his brother. Isobel knows her as a woman. I hadn't seen until I read this book quite how much resemblance there was between the uncontrolled reigns of Marguerite and her favorites, and Elizabeth Woodville and her family.
The result is a book with two faces. I don't recommend LADY OF THE ROSES for most men; it's a female thing. This is for women who enjoy romance combined with history well grounded in research. What makes it one entity is the genuine feelings.
Sandra Worth has made a specialty of the period of the Wars of the Roses. Her next, THE KING'S DAUGHTER, is due out this December. That heroine will be Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, mother of Henry VIII. From what I read on http://www.sandraworth.com, I expect that THE KING'S DAUGHTER will build on the last book of The Rose of York.
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