We are delighted to welcome Joanna to our blog today. Her new novel, Red Rose, White Rose focuses on Cicely Neville and her half-brother, Cuthbert. It was released by Harper on 4th December 2014. Joanna talks to us today about what inspired her to write Red Rose, White Rose.
Red Rose, White Rose: It only takes one little fact to set off a chain reaction…
When people ask what inspired me to write a novel about Cicely Neville they are surprised when I say it was the discovery that she was the youngest child in her family. Nothing very unusual about that you may think but when I add that the family consisted of no less than twenty-two children perhaps you might begin to understand why my curiosity was piqued? Then consider the following additional facts; that fifteenth century England was about to plunge into the Wars of the Roses, that the Nevilles were staunch Lancastrians (Red Rose) and that Cicely married the Duke of York (White Rose) and I think you might appreciate that this struck me as the framework for some fascinating historical fiction.
Cicely’s father was the Earl of Westmorland, which used to be a county in north-west England but has now been subsumed by the county of Cumbria and no longer officially exists, except in the name of a local newspaper and a motorway service station on the M6! However, in the fifteenth century it was the heartland of one of the kingdom’s most powerful families, the Nevilles. Ralph Neville was granted the Earldom of Westmorland by King Richard II towards the end of the fourteenth century but when Henry of Lancaster usurped Richard’s throne in 1399, Ralph had recently taken Henry’s half-sister Joan Beaufort as his second wife and therefore felt obliged to support his new brother-in-law. It turned out to be a good move because the new king heaped honours and wealth on those lords who had backed his seizure of the crown.by
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.by