Book Review: “Red Rose, White Rose” by Joanna Hickson

20892659One 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.

Book Review: “First of the Tudors” by Joanna Hickson

30646371Historical fiction has always been a genre that I have had a love/hate relationship with. I was a big fan of the genre for a while and I would read every book I could get my hands on about the Tudors, but then I realized that what the authors were writing was not always true to the historical facts. As I moved away from the fictional genre into the historically academic genre, I found myself looking at historical fiction with a more critical lens. Historical fiction became less entertaining for me the more I learned about the people behind the stories. I told myself that I was not going to read another historical fiction book because they were not historically accurate. That was until I read “ First of the Tudors” by Joanna Hickson.

Now when I read the title of this book, my first thought was that it was either going to be about Owen Tudor and how he met Catherine of Valois or Henry Tudor and about how he came to the throne. While both were mentioned in this book, the true hero of “The First of the Tudors” is Jasper Tudor, the son of Owen Tudor and the uncle of Henry Tudor. To me, Jasper Tudor was always the unsung hero of the Tudor dynasty. I mean he kept Henry safe for all those years in exile while his mother Margaret Beaufort was working on a political solution to keep her son safe. He was an outlaw and in a sense a kingmaker.

However, Joanna Hickson decided to add her own twist to the story. In records of the nursery of Henry VIII, Margaret Beaufort brought in a woman named Jane Hywel to take care of the royal children. It would seem very odd that Margaret Beaufort would bring a woman of unknown origins into her son’s household to take care of his children, so how did Margaret know about Jane? In this book, Hickson puts out the idea that Jane was a cousin of Jasper and that he was the one who brought Jane into Margaret’s household to help with the birth of Henry Tudor and to help raise him.  Of course being historical fiction, there is an element of romance between Jasper and Jane that stretches throughout the entire first half of the Wars of the Roses (1455-1470).

Even though Jasper Tudor did marry Catherine Woodville in 1485, I found that the idea of Jasper having a wife or at least a mistress before this marriage a possibility. The idea of Jane adds a different level of intrigue to Jasper’s life, one that many might not expect; that while he was in exile and was fighting for his king and his nephew that he fell in love.

Hickson does an excellent job to navigate the intriguing details of Jasper’s life, both real and fictional. I found myself not caring about the historical facts as much with this book. I couldn’t put this book down. Hickson literally transported me into the world of Jasper and Jane with how she wrote this book. There was a lot of drama and romance mixed with historical facts that kept me wanting more. This was a page turner for sure. It made me re-evaluate reading more historical fiction in the future.  If you want a good historical fiction book about Jasper Tudor and his role in the Wars of the Roses, I highly recommend “ First of the Tudors” by Joanna Hickson.