The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes
After finishing Philippa Gregory’s latest novel about Elizabeth Woodville, The White Queen, I was eager to pick up the story of Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter. Most of the Tudor fiction I have read to date focused on happenings after her death, so I didn’t feel very familiar with her. The Tudor Rose focuses on Elizabeth’s life just before the time of her death until well into her last pregnancy. Her life is constantly in upheaval, even while her siblings are taken into a prison-like sanctuary by their mother after Edward IV’s death. She finds herself fancying a young man sent often to their sanctuary with supplies and messages, but she fears that she may never know love. She sees this for reality after it is reported that her brothers, King Eward V and Richard of Shrewsbury are announced dead. As the eldest of Edward IV’s children, Elizabeth’s hand in marriage is a pawn used to gain power. She uses the small influence she has to seek revenge against the man she blames for her brother’s death. She never stops longing for her brothers, nor does she ever stop hoping for love.
Reading novels featuring the same historical figures written by different authors in close proximity is an interesting experience. The White Queen focuses on the elder Elizabeth, but both Elizabeth’s are very much a part of The Tudor Rose. Gregory paints Elizabeth Woodville with a much kinder brush than Campbell Barnes. In The Tudor Rose, Elizabeth Woodville is so ruled by her emotions that she is nearly incapable of being the brilliant schemer for which she is credited for being. While I’m certain that she had her flaws (and I enjoyed the way that Gregory brought them out) Campbell Barnes clearly subscribes to the traditionally negative view of Edward IV’s wife. While I found that somewhat off-putting as a emerging fan of Elizabeth Woodville, being raised by Elizabeth Woodville most definitely had an impact on Elizabeth of York and any novel featuring her must take that into account. Campbell Barnes used her mother’s reputation to flesh out her Tudor rose and I really enjoyed her character.
My favorite scenes in this novel all take place after the death of the princes when Elizabeth of York is doing all that she can to discover what really happened. Using the trunk of dress up clothes in the sanctuary was an interesting way to provide Elizabeth with the means to discover information she would not have otherwise known as well as play an active and independent role in the downfall of the man responsible for what happened to her brothers. I nearly held my breath through one scene where she is trying to sneak back to her room after leaving the castle. It is during scenes like that where Campbell Barnes’ writing and story telling shine.
The Tudor Rose is the second book I’ve read and enjoyed by Margaret Campbell Barnes. The first novel I read was My Lady of Cleves. I found her storytelling to be consistent between the two. She is thorough and builds the story over time as it is less important to her than the characters themselves. Both of the women in the novels I’ve read lived in what could be dire circumstances. While the author does not spare them from the real pain they must have experienced, she does not torture them unnecessarily, either. I had feared for Elizabeth’s relationship with Lady Margaret Beaufort, but the way that her mother-in-law was written was refreshing. While I did not tear through either novel, I found them both comforting in that I could put them down without having to worry about losing the narrative while I was away. If you love Historical Fiction or the Tudors, you cannot go wrong by picking up this book.
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