Friday, April 29, 2011

LADY OF THE ROSES by Sandra Worth: Review

Since it's currently 3:00 AM, and I cannot see sleep coming in the near future, I thought I'd spend my sleeplessness productively and write a review!

I recently finished LADY OF THE ROSES by Sandra Worth. It was another book from my favorite genre, historical fiction. This book takes place during the War of the Roses, also known as The Cousin's War, during the pre-Tudor times.

Isobel Ingolsthorpe becomes a ward of Marguerite of Anjou, wife to King Henry VI of England, after her parents die. This was a dangerous time in England, because no one is sure of which branch of the family to be backing up, either the Yorks or the Lancasters. Both families have legitimate claims to the throne, and since King Henry VI has fits of madness and he's a Lancaster, the Yorks are reaffirmed in their beliefs that the crown is rightfully theirs. Isobel comes from a family of staunch Lancastrians, and Marguerite of Anjou, being married to a Lancastrian King, is obviously fighting for her right as Queen and her son's right as future King of England. The two factions continue to squabble, and it eventually leads to war.
Before the war begins ripping the country apart, Isobel is introduced to John Neville, a young knight who of course is a Yorkist, and is the Earl of Warwick's (The Kingmaker) younger brother. Like a fairy tale, it is love at first sight for both of them, even though Isobel is aware that Queen Marguerite will not approve of the match. Isobel's Lancastrian uncle helps to convince the Queen of John Neville's noble qualities, and with that recommendation, along with a hefty bride price, Isobel weds John. They have a happy marriage that produces five children.
Shortly after wedding John his brother, the Earl of Warwick, helps Edward IV to win the throne from King Henry VI and Marguerite of Anjou. However, after all the work the Earl of Warwick puts into helping Edward IV claim the throne, Edward IV acts ungrateful, according to Warwick, because he does not go along with what Warick wants him to do, and how he wants him to rule the country. Warwick becomes disenchanted with the idea of a King who he can't control at all, so he decides to rise up against Edward IV, and attempt to put Edward's treasonous brother, George the Duke of Clarence, on the throne of England. Things don't go as planned, and after several failed attempts Warwick commits the unforgivable act of treason when he teams up with Marguerite of Anjou in order to take the throne back for Henry VI (who Warwick had originally helped take the throne from!)
Anyways, John doesn't agree 100% with his older brother Warwick, but in the end he cannot fight against his brother and joins forces with him, and he ends up dying during battle. Not long after Isobel dies of a weak heart.

I really did like this novel, and it was an easy read, but there were a couple of things that annoyed me. The main thing that bothered me was how Sandra Worth portrays Elizabeth Woodville (Edward IV's wife). I get that she wasn't the sweetest, most wonderful woman of her time, but in this novel she is described as being completely evil. The blame for the Earl of Warwick eventually turning against Edward IV is pretty much put on her shoulders, because of the influences that she and her large family had on the kingdom. Her family was raised high during Edwards reign, like the families of most royalty, but Worth makes them all sound as if they were inept at their duties, and all around horrible people. I've read several books, both fiction and nonfiction, on this time period, and the Woodville's may have been raised high quickly, but they all seemed to be more than capable of doing the jobs that they were given. I do believe that Elizabeth Woodville was ambitious, but in a time where she didn't know from day to day whether or not her husband would still be King or her sons future Kings, she probably did come across as grasping at times. Who could blame her when her husband's crown was not secure, and many viewed him as the usurper.

The second thing that bothered me, just a little bit, were the mushy, gushy descriptions about how much John and Isobel loved each other. They would go on and on about how in love they were, and blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I get it, it's a love story, but geez, after awhile it just became redundant. I love a good love story as much as the next person, but I ended up skipping over some of the mushy conversations between the two of them.

I just made it seem like I hated the book, but that's definitely not true! I loved reading about The War of Roses from a completely different perspective. I didn't even know that the Earl of Warwick had a younger brother, and Warwick has been in a ton of the books that I have read!  I loved Isobel's character. She was young and innocent, but her intelligence gave her character depth. It was interesting to read a novel where the Earl of Warwick isn't shown to be an absolutely horrible human being. In this novel he's shown to be human, and it makes the reader think that he may have good reason for regretting putting Edward IV on the throne. John Neville is also a likable character. He's noble and loyal, as well as a worthy knight. He follows his heart, and makes decisions that he can live with, rather than decisions that he will regret his entire life.

Historically there is little known of either Isobel or John, so Sandra Worth was able to use a lot of creative license throughout novel, which I think worked out great. As a reader, you can actually see things really happening as they were described in this novel, and you are able to see the motivations behind the actions that these great people made that changed history forever. I would definitely recommend it to a reader of historical fiction, even if you have to skip the mushy parts!

On a scale of 1-5 I'd give it 3.5.


  1. I haven't read this book yet - I have recently read her newest Pale Rose of England which I thought was good. But similar to your comment above about making the Woodvilles out to be pure evil - she does that too in Pale Rose with Henry VII. It is just very apparent from what side she writes from - but I still enjoyed the story none-the-less. Thanks for this review.

  2. Re Elizabeth Woodville - Perhaps the author has a subconscious bias against smart, amibitious women?