This slight novel, condenses Elizabeth Woodville's life down to less than 200 pages. If you are looking for a quick read or an introduction to Edward IV's queen and The War of the Roses, you have found your read. This did do the job I intended it to do; to reintroduce me to a time and person that I had only visited once before and quite some time ago. I needed a read to give me a brush up on this era and a reintroduction to Elizabeth Woodville and Maureen Peters certainly succeeded in accomplishing this.
We first meet a young, vivacious and, despite her family circumstances, happy thirteen year old Elizabeth. She and her brother Anthony are sent, as representatives of the family to the wedding of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. Peter's clearly paints that they are outsiders looking in and the experiences and lessons learned during her stay at court, have forced Elizabeth to forever leave her childhood behind. The book moves along at a brisk pace, by the next chapter Elizabeth has been married to her first husband John Grey for two years and civil war is brewing. Elizabeth's husband fights for the Lancastrian cause but she is happy and contented in love and not interested in politics. Elizabeth's story continues to unfold along with The War of the Roses, her losses and struggles forming her into the women she becomes. Elizabeth is treated even handily, neither sympathetic nor wicked and allusions to witchcraft are only briefly mentioned. There is a thread Peters weaves into her tale of a meeting that Elizabeth has with a soothsayer foretelling where she would find her greatest enemy. The conclusion of this plot device and the book is a compelling, poignant and shocking twist that gave me pause for thought.
The author expects the reader to be able to keep up with the advancement of time between chapters by adding near the beginning of each, an anniversary, birthday, year of reign or the like. This is written in the third person allowing the narrative to alternate between the expected personages which allowed the author to show the reader events as they unfold, but this also means it switches without any indication. I had to go back and reread the beginning of a chapter a couple of times to get my footing but otherwise I had no difficulty. Some may find the rapid time changes and alternating points of view a bit disconcerting. This makes the book choppy and for theses reasons the book remains only good for me. This was written in the 1970's and it is my first Maureen Peters novel so maybe this was the norm for her or normal for historical fiction then. Either way, I will certainly read the other Maureen Peters books I have. If you are looking for an in depth treatment into her life and times, the motivations and feelings, this will not work for you. If you are looking for a quick read that will give you a snapshot overview to the important historical people and events surrounding The War of the Roses than seek this book out. Think of it as historical Cliff Notes.