Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thwarted Queen by Cynthia Sally Haggard

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Read: February 3, 2013

Thwarted Queen is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear. Cecylee is the apple of her mother’s eye. The seventh daughter, she is the only one left unmarried by 1424, the year she turns nine. In her father’s eyes, however, she is merely a valuable pawn in the game of marriage. The Earl of Westmorland plans to marry his youngest daughter to 13-year-old Richard, Duke of York, who is close to the throne. He wants this splendid match to take place so badly, he locks his daughter up. The event that fuels the narrative is Cecylee’s encounter with Blaybourne, a handsome archer, when she is twenty-six years old. This love affair produces a child (the “One Seed” of Book II), who becomes King Edward IV. But how does a public figure like Cecylee, whose position depends upon the goodwill of her husband, carry off such an affair? The duke could have locked her up, or disposed of this illegitimate son. But Richard does neither, keeping her firmly by his side as he tries to make his voice heard in the tumultuous years that encompass the end of the Hundred Years War - during which England loses all of her possessions in France - and the opening phase of the Wars of the Roses. He inherits the political mantle of his mentor Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, and become’s the people’s champion. The rambunctious Londoners are unhappy that their country has become mired in misrule due to the ineptitude of a King prone to fits of madness. Nor are they better pleased by the attempts of the King’s French wife to maneuver herself into power, especially as she was responsible for England’s losses in France. But can Richard and Cecylee prevail? Everywhere, their enemies lurk in the shadows.

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Plucking the Red and White Roses in the
Old Temple Gardens by Henry Arthur Payne
At the time of her death, Cecylee Neville had already lost her husband and survived all but two of her thirteen children. She'd stood witness as her sons vied and gave their lives for the English throne, saw the fall of her house and the rise of Tudor dynasty. Never being in a position to wield power in her own right, Cecylee commanded significant influence from the sidelines making it easy to see why Cynthia Sally Haggard felt inspired to fictionalize her life in Thwarted Queen.

Haggard's interpretation of Cecylee is interesting and though I felt the author imposed some rather modern sensibilities on the character, I found the end result quite compelling. Cecylee is at times a loving mother, an astute politician, an ambitious wife and repentant sinner. She is adaptable and clever, something I feel her historical counterpart must have been as such qualities would have been necessary for a woman in her position.

My favorite aspect of the book is the wide historic scope incorporated into the story. Beginning in Cecylee's childhood, Haggard gives readers an in depth look at the complex family relations and rivalries that played into the War of the Roses. Now I admit this is the historian in me talking, I like heavy historic fiction folks. Yes, Haggard fills in the blanks, the question of Edward's paternity is a central element of the story, but she doesn't water down the facts to streamline the plot which is something I actually appreciated. 

Meticulously researched and easy to follow, Thwarted Queen is an exceptional period piece, a must read for anyone interested in medieval monarchs, royal intrigue and the intense passions of those who sought the English crown.

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"Clever women have ways of getting around their menfolk. Believe me, I grew up in a household of clever and resourceful women.”
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Check out all the stops on the historical fiction VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR of Cynthia Sally Haggard's Thwarted Queen!

Monday, February 11
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading

Tuesday, February 12

Review at The Book Garden

Wednesday, February 13

Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Thursday, February 14

Review at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, February 15

Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Guest Post at Flashlight Commentary
Monday, February 18
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Tuesday, February 19
Interview & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, February 20
Review at A Book Geek
Thursday, February 21
Review at Psychotic State Book Reviews
Feature & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court 

Friday, February 22
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Monday, February 25
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Tuesday, February 26
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Wednesday, February 27
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, February 28
Author Guest Post at A Chick Who Reads
Friday, March 1
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

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