The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

(Cover picture courtesy of Whitcoulls.)

Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England.  Ignored by her sainted cousin Henry IV, mocked by her mother, married at age twelve, and endangered by childbirth, she sets her heart on putting her son on the throne regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy.  She names him Henry, like the king; sends him into exile; and pledges him in marriage to the daughter of her sworn enemy, Elizabeth of York.

Margaret charts her own way through loveless marriages, treacherous alliances, and secret plots.  Finally, gambling her life that her husband, the ruthless, deceitful Thomas, Lord Stanley, will support her, she masterminds one of the greatest rebellions of all time—all the while knowing that her son has grown to manhood, recruited an army, and now waits for his opportunity to win the greatest prize.

My overall impression of the second book in The Cousin’s War is one of indifference mingled with boredom.  For once, I’m actually reading a series in order and I think The White Queen was much better.  Perhaps it is the fact that I can identify more with the enchanting Elizabeth Woodville than my ruthless ancestor (according to family legend) Margaret Beaufort.

I really do feel sorry for Margaret—she is married at the age of 12 for goodness sake!  But my sympathy pretty much ends there as she schemes her way to the top with a single-minded focus that even I am surprised at.  I respect her determination, but her ruthlessness is too much, even for me.  I understand Genghis Khan better than I understand her because of Conn Iggulden’s wonderful portrayal.  Maybe my lack of understanding is partly because of Margaret’s obsessive piety, something that is foreign to me.

Like The White Queen, the plot is not exactly fast-paced, but I don’t really expect fast plots in historical fiction—unless the author is Conn Iggulden, of course.  I can’t quite sympathize with all of the characters, but I do understand what drives them.  Maybe I will be able to understand them better on a second read through, but for now my ‘meh’ judgment stands.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

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  1. ruthieath

    I have been reading this series too but, I must say, I am not enjoying it as much as other Philippa Gregory books. I am so disappointed with this series that I may not buy another one. However, ‘Wideacre’ by Gregory remains one of my favourite books so I will hold out for an improvement in the next series that she writes!

    • Carrie Slager

      I own Wideacre, but I just haven’t had the time to read it. I have to admit I actually enjoyed The White Queen, but I just can’t sympathize with Margaret Beaufort in the second book. I much prefer her earlier books like The Constant Princess.

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