June 27, 2011

Tudor Book Blog Reviews: Pale Rose of England

Pale Rose of England by Sandra Worth

I. Background

This novel is set during the reign of Henry VII. It follows Catherine and Richard (Perkin Warbeck) as they attempt to seize the English throne. Richard claims to be Richard, Duke of York, the youngest of the Princes in the Tower. Catherine, the daughter of a Scottish noble and cousin to King James, marries Richard and, after his defeat, joins the English court as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth. The novel follows Catherine through her next three marriages, to her death in 1537.

II. Review

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. Personally, I am a huge fan of third-person novels. However, a lot of people prefer first-person because you really get inside the main character's head. Though Pale Rose... is in third-person, Worth did a good job of relating the story through Catherine's point of view. For example, Catherine firmly believes, without a shadow of a doubt, that Richard is Richard, Duke of York, thus you believe it too.

I also really liked how one can tell Worth has done her research. The time period comes alive in the smallest details. Worth even provides an author's note at the end of the story to explain the history behind her novel. I feel this is extremely important when writing historical fiction.

Perkin Warbeck
Another highlight of the novel is how Worth shows Perkin Warbeck as, without a doubt, the youngest of the Princes in the Tower. Few historians believe that Perkin Warbeck was Richard, Duke of York. However, Worth offers a few valid arguments to support he was. She goes into detail about his handsome appearance (which greatly resembled the real Richard's father, King Edward IV, including his "Plantagenet eye"), his courtly and royal air (quite unlike the uneducated peasant Henry VII makes him out to be), and the fact that many European monarchs supported him (including James of Scotland, who allowed Warbeck to marry his niece) even after he was captured and was of no political use to them.

Though two bodies were found in the Tower in the 1600's, and thought to be the two Princes, DNA testing has not been performed, and the mystery remains unsolved.

Lastly, I really liked how Worth chose a time period few Tudor authors venture to. Her characters are barely mentioned in other Tudor novels (or even history books), but are well developed in hers. She barely mentions Henry VIII and "The Great Matter," but focuses on Richard and his quest to take the English Throne. Just think, if he had there would have been no "Great Matter!"

Henry VII
One thing I did not like about the story was how the author seemed to skim over Catherine's later life. Each chapter became a whole new chunk of time in her life. I would have rather the author break the novel into two novels, and focus more attention on Catherine's life before and during her marriage to Richard. The novel picks up right before their defeat by Henry VII. I would have rather had a few chapters going into more detail about their meeting, marriage, etc.

Worth also attempts to show that Henry VII was in love with Catherine. Of course, this makes for a great story, but it is not factual. Firstly, most Tudor historians do not think Henry VII had extramarital affairs. Secondly, looking at Henry VII's treatment of Catherine, there isn't much cause to think he thought anything of her. He did give her large gifts of clothing, but this was about the time his daughter married the King of Scotland. Of course he wanted to treat the King of Scotland's niece well...

Worth also shows Catherine and Richard as having a son. There is no historical evidence of this.

Ok, I will admit that these last two can't really be counted as "dislikes." This is a fictional account, and it makes for a good story :)
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and give it Four Tudor Roses.

Though I am not fully convinced that Perkin Warbeck was Richard, Duke of York, this novel has really gotten me thinking and reading. That, to me, is the sign of good historical fiction.


*Note: A huge thank you to author Sandra Worth for providing me with a copy of her wonderful novel!

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