4 December 2014
During the troublesome fifteenth century, the Neville’s were one of the most prestigious families in England, and when Cecily Neville, the youngest daughter of Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, makes an advantageous marriage with Richard, Duke of York, it combines two of the most powerful families in the land. However, being married to one of the richest men in the country is not without danger, and Cecily Neville discovers that life so close to English royalty is fraught with both treachery and peril.
Beautifully researched, the story combines the best of both fact and fiction. Throughout the novel, we have Cecily’s perspective about her life; we see her maturing from a young and idealistic teenager, to a mature woman with her own children and responsibilities for vast estates. She is a feisty protagonist, opinionated, controlling but ultimately loyal to those she loves and respects. The co-narrator is Cuthbert, who is described as Cecily’s illegitimate half brother; he’s a fictitious figure who gives a much needed male perspective on what it was like to serve the Neville family. And as he gets tangled up in the politics and manoeuvrings of the scheming Plantagenets, we gain insight into the intrigue and deceptions that were so much a part of this deadly game of thrones.
There is always much to absorb about the feuding Plantagenets; they were all complex and highly volatile characters and I think the author does a really credible job of bringing them all alive in your imagination. The indecision, the instability and the sheer unpredictability of living through a time of great uncertainty is captured well and although the book comes in at a hefty 530 pages and covers well over 30 years of feuding, it isn’t burdensome to read.
I enjoyed getting to know Cecily Neville and found that the author made the journey into the life and times of the Plantagenets a really enjoyable adventure, full of thrills and spills, but never avoiding the real purpose of the story, which was to bring a tumultuous time in history alive in the readers imagination.