Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes

One woman holds the key to England's most glorious empire

Elizabeth of York, the only living descendant of Edward IV, possesses the most precious thing in all of England - a legitimate claim to the crown. Two princes meet to determine a country's destiny: whoever wins will take Britain's most rightful heir as his bride and her kingdom for his own. On one side is her uncle Richard, the last Plantagenet King, whom she fears to be the murderer of her two brother's the would-be kings. On the other hand is Henry Tudor, the exiled king. Can he save her from a horrifying marriage to a cuthroat soldier.
Her mother was the beautiful woman who secretly captured a king's heart. Her father was a charismatic and handsome king whose brother was a loyal general, but who took the throne for his own. Her younger brothers disappeared in one of the enduring mysteries of the ages.

There are times when a book has a main character who just can't carry a story on their own, and for me, this book is one of those. Whilst Elizabeth of York was very important in her time, particularly as a marriageable young princess, she must have been a bit difficult to write about because in some ways it seem as though the interesting things happened around her instead of her being an active participant. Her story is interesting given the events that happened to people around her and her early life, but certainly her marriage appeared very much to be one of duty and is portrayed as being very lonely, despite the attempts from Henry's mother to welcome her into the family. Henry's mother is portrayed as a loving mother-in-law when everything else I have read about her suggests that she was controlling and overbearing. Elizabeth's own mother, Elizabeth Woodville doesn't come out of this portrayal too badly given the reputation that has carried through the ages.

Much of the content of the book revolves around what happened to the Princes in the Tower, as well as the two pretenders. One of the positives of this book for me is the way that the story of Perkin Warbeck is told. My interest has certainly been piqued, and I am definitely looking for more to read about him, and his life.

The other dominating character in the novel is that of Richard III - a love him or hate him kind of guy if ever there was such a thing! Many people are either strongly pro or strongly anti Richard, and there are many novels where you can clearly see the author's personal bias in the characterisation that they choose. In this novel it is almost as though Barnes tried to be even handed when it came to Richard III but instead comes off as inconsistent.

As we follow Elizabeth through her life we get brief glimpses of her children, the ill fated heir, Arthur and the dashingly sporty and handsome Henry but for me the book ends at a very strange point, very abruptly, and I think that this has flavoured my final rating of the book.

I received an ARC of this book from Sourcebooks. I have no idea if the blurb above ended up being the blurb on the final book but I really hope not! I am pretty sure that Elizabeth's sisters were living descendants of Edward IV, and I don't think Henry Tudor was an 'exiled king' when she married him.

Over the last couple of years I have been lucky enough to read a couple of Margaret Campbell Barnes' books that have been being republished by Sourcebooks. This was an okay read, but not as good as either Brief Gaudy Hour (about Anne Boleyn) or My Lady of Cleves (about Anne of Cleves). I am on the lookout for The King's Fool though, and if I can find them, will definitely read more from this author. I believe that another of the author's books is due to be rereleased next year.

I was interested to see on Fantastic Fiction that they have grouped Brief Gaudy Hour and My Lady of Cleves together with this book as part of a trilogy called Shadows of the Crown. Whilst the Tudor connection was obvious, I hadn't actually seen this title for the group of books before.

I'm glad that I have read this, but if I was asked to recommend a book by this author, I would start with one of the others.

Rating 3.5/5


  1. You may have just clinched it, for me. I've been having trouble getting into this book and was considering DNF'ing it. I don't know enough about the time period and there are times the author assumed the reader had basic knowledge. It sucks being history stupid. I really ought to know about the Plantaganets and the Tudors but I don't.

  2. I came to your blog and it's already got tomorrow's date on it! It's like I'm reading it in the future :-)

  3. Nearly half way through tomorrow here already Aarti! Nearly lunch time!

  4. I liked this one when I read it a few years ago, but you're right, life does seem to happen to Elizabeth. Barnes book on Richard II - Within the Hollow Crown - is going to be reissued next year. It's my favorite Barnes book so far (but I haven't read Brief Gaudy Hour yet).

  5. I am so glad to hear that Within the Hollow Crown is your favourite! I am looking forward to reading it a great deal.

    Bookfool, in the end I am happy to have read it, but it isn't where I would start for sure.

  6. Okay, nerdy me: I was recently at a conference and one of the presenters made a prediction... that the current Tudor craze will slowly morph into something else. Medicis, maybe?

    I hope so! Love me some Italian poisoners!

  7. I can see what you mean about this one! The characterization for the characters outside of Elizabeth was shallow - it's like there is nothing more to Henry Tudor than the fact that he's cold and incapable of love. Anyway, I didn't read the blurb on the back (I never do), so I didn't catch those errors! I also hope they changed it.

  8. My Lady of Cleves is one of the warmest, loveliest historic fictions I know and definitely my favourite MCB book.

  9. You seem to have more knowledge of this time period than I do. I wonder having known what you indicate here whether I would have rated the book lower. For me this was just an OK book.

  10. I have been reading about this book all over the place and have been wondering if it would be a good read for me. I am still not sure. I'm sorry it was a bit uneven for you, especially in the end, but I appreciate your honest reactions to the book. Great review!

  11. I found the first half of this book hard to get into, but like you I am glad that I stuck with it. So far I have only read one other of her books, The King's Fool. I loved it. I would recommend it over this one, for sure.



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