Saturday, November 12, 2011

Blog Tour & Review: The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen, and the King's Mother

Title: The Women of the Cousins' War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King's Mother.
Authors: Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin, Michael Jones
Publisher: Touchstone (September 6, 2011)

Source: Received from publisher via Crazy Book Tours

Book description from Amazon:
#1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory teams with two eminent historians to explore the historical characters in the real-life world behind her Wars of the Roses novels.

PHILIPPA GREGORY and her fellow historians describe the extraordinary lives of the heroines of her Cousins’ War books: Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford; Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV; and Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII.

In her essay on Jacquetta, Philippa Gregory uses original documents, archaeology, and histories of myth and witchcraft to create the first-ever biography of the young duchess who survived two reigns and two wars to become the first lady at two rival courts. David Baldwin, established authority on the Wars of the Roses, tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, the first commoner to marry a king of England for love; and Michael Jones, fellow of the Royal Historical Society, writes of Margaret Beaufort, the almost-unknown matriarch of the House of Tudor.

In the introduction, Gregory writes revealingly about the differences between history and historical fiction. How much of a role does speculation play in writing each? How much fiction and how much fact should there be in a historical novel? How are female historians changing our view of women in history?

The Women of the Cousins’ War is beautifully illustrated with rare portraits and source materials. As well as offering fascinating insights into the inspirations behind Philippa Gregory’s fiction, it will appeal to all with an interest in this period.

I am not a history buff by any means at all. However, I can happily attribute my introduction to historical fiction to Philippa Gregory and her books (in particular, The Other Boleyn Girl). I was never particularly interested in history growing up and I found the textbooks too boring and difficult to understand. I loved reading, but that was because I loved the stories. Gregory's books does a great job of tying the two together in an interesting way. I always had an interest in medieval times - which little girl doesn't want to know more about kings, queens, princes and princesses? However, Gregory's books were the first ones to get me hooked into historical fiction as a genre, with a special liking towards all things medieval. 

I wasn't sure what to expect going into this book and honestly, I was a little apprehensive once the book arrived and it was pretty thick! It reminded me of the history textbook days and I was a little anxious that I wouldn't enjoy it, but I was very wrong! There are moments when the sentences run a little long and there are so many facts thrown at you at one time that it can get confusing for a reader like myself, who is not used to reading non-fiction historical books. However, it was a very enjoyable read about three women who are not written about very much, if at all, in history, but had such an huge impact on the more well-known time of the Tudors. The book itself reads like a novel and that made it easy for me to read, coming from a historical fiction side rather than the history side.

Gregory starts off the book with an introduction about history, historical fiction and women in history. I found it very interesting and reaffirmed what I already knew about Gregory - that she is an incredibly intelligent woman herself very well-versed in all things related to medieval times. I also enjoyed learning more about her process in writing historical fiction.

I have read most of the Gregory's books in the Tudors period and often times found myself stopping to go to Wikipedia to read up more on the historical figures before proceeding through the rest of the book. I think this book would be a great book to have alongside while reading her series on The Cousins' War.

The book is written in three sections. Gregory writes the first section about Jacquetta, the Duchess of Bedford. Baldwin writes about Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England. Lastly, Jones writes about Margaret Beaufort, who ultimately ends up being the grandmother of Henry VIII. Each author does a great job of piecing together historical documents to put together a biographical account of their lives. It did not read like a history book at all and at times I had to remind myself that I was reading a non-fiction book, not a fictional story.

Overall, I think Gregory, Baldwin and Jones do a great job of giving these women a place in history. I think all fans of Gregory's books, especially the The Cousins' War series, will find this companion book a very enjoyable and interesting read.

4 out of 5 stars

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