One woman is torn between the loyalty to her birth family and the loyalty to her family by marriage. Now, this may sound like the story of Elizabeth of York, but alas, it is not. This story does take place in the fifteenth century, but it is the story of Elizabeth of York’s grandmother, “The Rose of Raby,” Cecily Neville. Born to the proud Neville family, who were proud Lancastrians, Cecily’s father, Ralph Neville, the Earl of Westmorland, arranged a marriage for his daughter to the young and ambitious Richard, Duke of York. She is now one of the most powerful women in England, but with power comes risks of ruin as Cecily has a secret that could be disastrous. War looms between the Red Roses of Lancaster and the White Roses of York, one that will transform English history forever, with Cecily caught in the middle. Her story is told in Joanna Hickson’s novel, “Red Rose, White Rose.”
Hickson begins her book by showing the interaction between Cecily and her half-brother, Cuthbert or Cuddy. Cecily is engaged to Richard Duke of York when she is kidnapped but is later rescued by John Neville, a distant cousin. In John Neville’s care, Cecily Neville’s life takes an unexpected turn, and a secret relationship is formed between the two. Although I know this was a fictitious relationship invented for this book, it still did not sit well with me. I have always thought Cecily was loyal and devoted to her husband and family (even though there were rumors of her and a knight having an affair), so this did not fit my view of Cecily Neville.
The bulk of this novel explores how Cecily and Richard were able to navigate the complex world of 15th-century English politics while their family grew. We also see Cuthbert fall in love and have his own family while he stays by Cecily’s side during such a tumultuous time.
This novel did not spend much time on the Wars of Roses. We get to see the origins of the major battles and how Edward became king, but we don’t see Cecily trying to hold her family together. I wanted to see her interactions with her sons Edward, George, and Richard during their feuding years. I wanted to see her reactions to Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and her interactions with her daughter-in-law. In short, I wanted a longer story that focused more on the Wars of the Roses and how Cecily Neville dealt with the changes in her family dynamic due to the throne’s power.
Overall, this novel was enjoyable and well-written. Some elements were included that I disagreed with their concept. The story was engaging and gave Hickson’s audience a sneak-peek into Cecily Neville, Richard Duke of York, and their children. If you want a solid novel about Cecily Neville, I recommend reading “Red Rose, White Rose” by Joanna Hickson.