The White Queen is the first in Gregory's War of the Roses series and I liked it even more than her Tudor books. The main reason for that is that this book isn't straightforward historical fiction, there's a bit of fantasy there too and I enjoy fantasy tremendously. The fantasy elements are based on the fact that the real Elizabeth Woodville and her mother were accused of witchcraft and believed themselves to be the descendants of Melusina, a European river goddess, but Gregory takes it a step further in tying the women's unconventional actions into the plot in a way that this gives the novel a flavor the other books don't have. There's nothing that can be positively identified as witchcraft, just some remarkable coincidences, but the way Gregory tells it there's always the "what if" in the back of the reader's mind. The legend of Melusina itself is told in pieces throughout the book and in echoing the mood and theme of the particular section it amplifies the effect of magic permeating the story.
I'm already used to Gregory's characters being strong and vivid while at the same time very human and I enjoy getting to know them even if I can't relate to them. Edward IV here is a king who sees the big picture and has his country and the future of his family in the forefront of his thoughts at all times. On the day of his wedding to Elizabeth he's already thought about and put plans into place to prepare for all eventualities. Elizabeth's mother is an absolutely remarkable character and I'm glad that we got to see some of her. Strong, intelligent, with her eye on the prize at all times but not hard and cold. I look forward to reading The Lady of the Rivers when it comes out later this year because she will be at the center of that novel. Elizabeth herself is a woman to the tips of her fingernails. She inherited her mother's cleverness and her father's temperament and with time became the matriarch looking out for her family's future, able to look the other way when the matter wasn't serious enough and to demand what she wanted when she believed that her position was threatened.
There's only one thing that made it difficult to keep track of the plot and detracted from the experience: everybody seemed to be Elizabeth, Edward, George, Robert, Richard and Margaret. When there's several of each in every family you know it's time to come up with some more names, just to make talking about each other easier, if for no other reason. But what can you do, that's the way things were.
Gregory gets criticized a lot for not making her novels historically accurate and while I'm no history buff and can't agree or disagree with the critics I can say that her fiction flows naturally and whatever liberties she takes with the facts don't appear to be to the story's detriment. It is fiction after all, and very good fiction at that.
Extremely well researched with wonderfully developed characters. One of Gregory's best!
I found this book interesting, but confusing. Unfortunately the historic characters all have the same first names (Richard, Edward, Elizabeth, etc.) which is not the author's fault, but it really slows the reader down and forces he or she to re-read pages to make sure which character she is speaking of. Genny
Elizabeth Woodville is a widow with two children who plans an encounter with the warring king whose forces killed her husband. The beautiful Elizabeth captures King Edward's heart and they fall in love. Married in a small chapel with few witnesses, she becomes queen when he declares his love for her when he announces the marriage. His mentor, Warwick, is furious because he married without his consent, married a commoner, and a widow. He becomes more furious when the queen's family takes all the plums which he hoped to secure for himself and his friends. Eventually, he decides to support the king's brother, George, unseat the king.
King Edward wins his wars, one after the other even when all seems against him. Yet George plots continually to replace his brother. When Edward can no longer forgive him, he is sentenced to death for treason. The king becomes ill and dies. The story continues with several factions warring with each other to gain the power of the throne.
A fascinating aspect of the novel is how the author wove the myth of Melusina, a European river goddess into the story, adding an element of fantasy which I love. Elizabeth and her mother thought they were descendants of Melusina and are accused of witchcraft time and again. Of course, the weather incidents that affect what happens add intrigue to the story. Did Elizabeth, her mother and daughter conjure the weather events that affected the war? It's all part of the excitement that Gregory brings to this story and I truly enjoyed it.
With this book, Gregory introduced me to the Cousin's War. It begins in the middle of the 15th century where a civil war between cousin's fight each other for the crown. The northerners being the Yorkists (White rose)and the Lancastrians (Red rose).
Every time I open one of her books, I feel as if I'm in another time and place. It's like I'm reading a beautiful diary through chronological events. As the story progresses with the character, you too feel the changes they encounter.
Gregory begins with her as a slightly vulnerable widow and after marrying the handsome Edward, she's a woman of influence, power, and most importantly a mother to the princes in the tower.
Enjoy this book. Gregory does not disappoint for imagery, historical accuracy, and romance!