About the book:
The second book in Philippa's stunning new trilogy, The Cousins War, brings to life the story of Margaret Beaufort, a shadowy and mysterious character in the first book of the series - The White Queen - but who now takes center stage in the bitter struggle of The War of the Roses. The Red Queen tells the story of the child-bride of Edmund Tudor, who, although widowed in her early teens, uses her determination of character and wily plotting to infiltrate the house of York under the guise of loyal friend and servant, undermine the support for Richard III and ultimately ensure that her only son, Henry Tudor, triumphs as King of England. Through collaboration with the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret agrees to a betrothal between Henry and Elizabeth's daughter, thereby uniting the families and resolving the Cousins War once and for all by founding of the Tudor dynasty.
The Red Queen by Ms. Gregory was very well done in that the characters felt real to me and the setting pulled me into the past. While the story was a bit long, the novelization of the struggle between the Yorks and Lancasters was necessarily drawn out. The number of times the throne switched hands, or important people were at risk of being killed because they were on the wrong side at the moment, was staggering. I enjoyed the way the author pulled history into this book and made it come alive.
I found the details of Margaret's three marriages fascinating and incredibly sad. I hurt for her and wished that somehow she could have found happiness, but it wasn't meant to be. Over time she just became more bitter. She wasn't taken seriously and was seen as a means to an end, nothing more. I found the way her first husband was portrayed as a child rapist (though he was begrudgingly fulfilling his duty to have an heir,) the second as a coward, and the third as a scheming two-timer quite compelling. Each marriage had a purpose, and while Margaret suffered during each union, she learned a lot in the process.
I appreciated that the battle scenes were not overly gross. There were plenty of disgusting details of war without being over the top. I felt bad for all of the people getting their heads chopped off as it was. I loved how the author portrayed Lady Margaret's firm conviction that it was God's will that her son Henry become king. Based on her painful life up to that point, it made sense that she would put everything she had into seeing him fulfill his destiny (which she believed was the reason he was born,) and then her suffering would be for a good reason and not just cruel luck. I found her religious zeal interesting, too. She really believed she was favored by God because she prayed all the time. It caused her to be too proud of herself, and quite arrogant.
Of course, the Yorks felt that they were destined for the throne as well. Since King Henry had lost his mind the author made a compelling case for why fear overruled loyalty. I just felt bad for the common English person who fought for either side and the many lives lost over the right of one family or the other to rule England. This was the first book by Ms. Gregory that I've read and it won't be the last. I have The White Queen and plan to read it in the next year.
This novel was provided for me to review by Touchstone Fireside (A division of Simon and Schuster, a CBS company.) I was given no compensation other than receiving the book to review for free. The Red Queen was released on August 3, 2010.