Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England and that she has a great destiny before her. Her ambitions are disappointed when her sainted cousin, Henry VI, fails to recognize her as a kindred spirit, and she is even more dismayed when he sinks into madness. Her mother mocks her plans, revealing that Margaret will always be burdened with the reputation of her father, one of the most famously incompetent English commanders in France. But worst of all for Margaret is when she discovers that her mother is sending her to a loveless marriage in remote Wales.
Author Philippa Gregory, best-known for her historical novel The Other Boleyn Girl, turns her attention back two generations in The Red Queen, giving the spotlight to Margaret Beaufort, a devout Christian who dedicated her life to putting her son, Henry VII, on the throne. Narrator Bianca Amato takes Margaret from her girlhood as an aspiring nun through her lifelong obsession with regaining the English crown for the house of Lancaster with leisurely pacing and a steady tone. Meanwhile Graeme Malcolm, who takes on narration rights for a few chapters that take place on the battlefield, offers a straightforward look at the real, human toll of medieval power plays.
Margaret was the sole heir to the house of Lancaster, which waged a 30-year war the War of the Roses against the house of York for control of England. Married at 13 to Edmund Tudor, she had one son and spent the rest of her days praying that son would become king (and, certain that she was following the will of God, making calculated moves to get him there). While the book doesn’t have the romance and scandal that characterized the reign of Margaret’s grandson, Henry VIII, it offers a sweeping look at the complicated political moves of the day and the women who wielded more influence than history would give them credit for. Gregory’s Margaret is a committed mother, a devoted Lancastrian, and a passionate Catholic, and Amato performs her story with all the requisite emotions: pain at being taken from Henry; fury at the successes of the house of York; righteous, single-minded conviction of God’s will. Amato’s voice soothing and gentle makes Margaret’s ambition seem as innocent as a mother wanting her son to ace his math exam, and that makes the last-act reveal of the lengths she’ll go in the name of God and Lancaster that much more chilling. Blythe Copeland
"Nobody does the Tudors better than Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl), so it should come as no surprise that her latest—the War of the Roses as seen through the eyes of Henry VII's mother —is confident, colorful, convincing, and full of conflict, betrayal, and political maneuvering....[L]ike Margaret Beaufort, Gregory puts her many imitators to shame by dint of unequalled energy, focus, and unwavering execution." (Publishers Weekly)
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Good book, unsympathetic heroine
- Karin "A published novelist and technical writer, who lives in Northern California with a cranky but loveable parrot and lots of books."