Book Review: “Owen: Book One of the Tudor Trilogy” by Tony Riches

Medieval knightOwen Tudor, the second husband of Catherine of Valois and the father of Edmund and Jasper Tudor. His affair with Catherine changed English history forever, yet not much is known about his past before he met Catherine. Was he married before  he met Catherine and after she died? What must have been like for him as the Wars of the Roses began to take hold of England and everything he worked hard for began to fade away. The man who started as a Welsh servant turned step- father to King Henry VI and the grandfather of King Henry VII, the patriarch of the Tudor Dynasty, this is the protagonist in Tony Riches’ book, “Owen: Book One of the Tudor Trilogy”.

Tony Riches explains his fascination with Owen Tudor:

I was born near Pembroke Castle and recently visited the small room where the thirteen- year old Margaret Beaufort gave birth to Henry Tudor. I also stood on the pebble beach at Mill Bay near Milford Haven, imagining how Jasper Tudor would have felt as he approached with Henry and his mercenary army to ride to Bosworth- and  change history. These experiences made me wonder about Owen Tudor, the Welsh servant who began this fascinating dynasty. I felt a responsibility to research his story in as much detail as possible and try to sort out the myths from the facts. There are huge gaps in the historical records, which only historical fiction can help to fill. As well as there being no surviving record of Owen’s marriage, no  reliable image of him exists….I would like to remember Owen , not as a victim of the Wars of the Roses, but as an adventurer, a risk- taker, a man who lived his life to the full and made his mark on the world through his descendants. (Riches, 168).

Tony Riches starts his book with Owen’s entrance into Catherine of Valois’ household as the Keeper of her Wardrobe after the death of her first husband, Henry V. Owen tries to focus on his job, and not on Catherine, but he cannot help it. He loves Catherine and she loves him. They decide to marry in secret and they have 3 boys; Edmund, Jasper, and a third son who joined the church. The happiness that Catherine and Owen had living in the countryside would not last long. Catherine dies shortly after giving birth to a daughter and their secret relationship is revealed. Owen is thrown in jail while his sons Edmund and Jasper are raised to be the step-brothers of King Henry VI.

Eventually, Owen is released and is allowed to live a good life as a commander in France while his sons are given titles and land. Owen helps escort Margaret of Anjou to England to marry Henry VI and he helps walk his daughter in law Margaret Beaufort down the aisle. Unfortunately, the wheel of fortune is always turning and the happiness is soon replaced with tragedy yet again. Edmund Tudor dies shortly before the birth of his son Henry Tudor and the Wars of the Roses tears the country apart. Owen is killed before he could see his family triumph as the new dynasty in England.

This is the story of Owen Tudor. I found Tony Riches’ book “Owen” a thrilling read. I have always been fascinated by the life of Owen Tudor and his sons and Tony Riches was able to write a story that made me want to study more about Owen Tudor and his life. Riches was able to combine the historical facts that we know about Owen with fictitious elements, including two other women that Owen fell in love with and a friend named Nathaniel, into a cohesive and engaging book. I did not want to stop reading this book. This was my first time reading a book by Tony Riches and I loved it. His writing style is engaging and very easy to read. I look forward to reading more books by him in the future.  I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Owen Tudor and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty.

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.