In fifteenth century England the Neville family rules the north with an iron fist. Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, a giant of a man and a staunch Lancastrian, cunningly consolidates power by negotiating brilliant marriages for his children. The last betrothal he arranges before he dies is between his youngest daughter, nine-year-old Cicely, and his ward Richard, the thirteen-year-old Duke of York, England’s richest heir.
Told through the eyes of Cicely and her half-brother Cuthbert, Red Rose, White Rose is the story of one of the most powerful women in England during one of its most turbulent periods. Born of Lancaster and married to York, the willowy and wayward Cicely treads a hazardous path through love, loss and imprisonment and between the violent factions of Lancaster and York, as the Wars of the Roses tear England’s ruling families apart.
Red Rose, While Rose is told from two points of view – Cicely who ends up married to The Duke of York, Richard (who is not the easiest man to live with,) and Cuthbert, her illegitimate half-brother. I liked the fact that there were two points of view as it gave me an insight into both sides. Cicely on her own would only have been able to take the story so far and so Cuthbert gives us an insight into the time on the battlefields – information Cicely would have no knowledge of as her story is from the domestic side.
I love it when fiction is mixed in with fact. Cuthbert is fictional but I found that I really liked his character and I connected with him in a way that I didn’t quite with other characters. He felt very real in my mind and the author has done such a great job giving him a voice. I found his situation interesting. He is seen to be accepted into Cicely’s immediate family but has to fight for his legitimacy as far as everyone else is concerned.
The two points of view also gave a very interesting account of how different it was for men and woman but in my opinion, it also shows how much importance the women’s behaviour had on their husbands and how they were forced to make difficult choices once married.
I love history and so like historical novels. I do have to admit though, I don’t know much about The War of The Roses and subsequently, I did have trouble knowing who everyone was and keeping up with the story so I found the family tree at the beginning of the novel so helpful. Likewise with the author’s note at the end where we are told which characters are fictional and which weren’t (so many Richards to keep track of.)
As I did have trouble keeping up with the characters, this book took me a while to get through (it’s a long book at over five hundred pages,) but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. I kept wanting to read ‘just one more chapter.’
Overall, I liked this book and recommend it especially if you are a fan of historical fiction. It’s made me intrigued to find out more about this time in our history. I am also looking forward to reading more from Joanna Hickson.
Thank you to Harper for the review copy. Red Rose, White Rose is available to buy now in paperback from most bookshops. Click on the link to view on Amazon.