I like a bit of historical fiction – and at the risk of repeating myself, I appreciate the imagination that goes into taking fact and speculation and making a cohesive story about them. And Gregory seems to consistently pick figures in history that interest me – in this case, Margaret Beaufort, grandmother of Henry VIII and the woman who plotted to end the war of the roses.
This is the second in The Cousin’s War series, but I dont think it matters. The first, The White Queen, tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville who married Edward IV who was succeeded by his infamous brother Richard III. So the stories are set at similar times but from different perspectives. I’m certainly keen to read the others.
Beaufort is not exactly a likeable character, but she is believable one. Driven by ambition, she uses her piety as an excuse.. all that she desires for herself is simply what God wants for her. And her son Henry.
The novel covers the span of her life, although skip large sections and not always effectively. There are a number of literary devices that could have been used to fill these more naturally. But we see her childhood, where she is born into the rising Tudor house but in the line of succession for the house of Lancaster. She dreams of becoming just like Joan of Arc, a fantasy that continues with her later in life. She is married young to secure the line and her son Henry is close to the throne itself. She makes it her life’s mission to secure it for him, especially after the death of her first husband. She is married off again, and it is not until the second husband dies and she inherits his property that she is able to play a role herself in the warring houses and come to court to be married for a third time to one who shares her level of ambition – and willingness to be duplicitous.
Her fortunes rise and fall, but her vision never wavers, and history tells us her reward. An iron woman, she was crucial to the rule of two Tudor kings and a woman of enormous power. Give it a go.