Reviewed by Amanda Keats
Philippa Gregory is widely known as the benchmark against which all historical authors are measured and rightly so. She knows how to write incredible history and make it interesting to both history fans and those who just love a great bit of action and sexy romance.
The White Queen is the first of three books she wrote about the War of the Roses – a time in British royal history when brothers fought brothers, cousins killed cousins and nobody was safe. The queen in question is Elizabeth Woodville. Widowed with two small sons she manages to intercept the king's carriage, persuade him to give her husband's lands back to her and then falls in love and marries him. As the young King Edward has been raised by his close friends and advisors with a plan in mind, their secret marriage is not well received and their hot, passionate romance soon turns to a marriage surrounded with battles, conflicts and a constant fear for the lives of their family. As Elizabeth arranges marriages to suit her extended family and churns out baby after baby, she and her mother – both descendants of the water goddess Melusina – start to use their 'sight' to influence people's actions, leading to people claiming her as a witch.
The White Queen is relentless, whether it be the King telling his wife to go straight to bed so he can ravage her or going off to fight yet another battle. But amidst all the sex and violence lies Elizabeth. Though this is clearly a time when roles were fixed for men and women, Gregory writes the females in this book as equals. They may not be fighting on the battlefield but they are fighting for their children, their inheritance, and their honour.
A gripping read from start to finish, with all the sex, violence and fascinating gender roles you would expect from historical fiction while at its core remains its heart – the characters, all of which are flawed, fascinating and totally human.
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