Published by Kensington Books, 29 January 2013.
From her earliest days, Margaret Tudor knows she will not have the luxury of choosing a husband. As daughter of Henry VII, her duty is to gain alliances for England. Barely out of girlhood, Margaret is married by proxy to James IV and travels to Edinburgh to become Queen of Scotland.
Despite her doubts, Margaret falls under the spell of her adopted home. But she has rivals. While Jamie is an affectionate husband, he is not a faithful one. And providing an heir cannot guarantee Margaret’s safety when Jamie leads an invading army against her own brother, Henry VIII. In the wake of tragic loss she falls prey to the attentions of the ambitious Earl of Angus—a move that brings Scotland to the brink of anarchy. Beset by betrayal, secret alliances, and the vagaries of her own heart, Margaret has one overriding ambition—to preserve the crown of Scotland for her son, no matter what the cost.
Heat Level 1 (barely!)
REVIEW RATING: 3.5 STARS
Review by Caz
The story of Margaret, older sister of Henry VIII is possibly a less familiar one than that of his younger sister, Mary, and it’s that fact which initially attracted me to this book. In fact, I think I’ve only read one other book about her – Jean Plaidy’s The Thistle and the Rose, which I read probably more than thirty years ago.
So I was interested in reacquainting myself with her story.
Margaret led a turbulent life that was frequently beset by tragedy. Like many females born into prominent families, she was used as a bargaining tool, a means of cementing alliances, to which end she was married to King James IV of Scotland at the age of 13.
As a young girl, Margaret is shown to be intelligent and lively. The early part of her life is dealt with very quickly, but before she leaves for Scotland, her father, Henry VII tells her that he has a dream that through her, the kingdoms of England and Scotland will be united, which of course does come to pass, although not in the way he had expected. (Margaret’s great-grandson, James VI became James I of the United Kingdom in 1603 upon the death of Elizabeth I).
Margaret’s husband is twenty-years her senior, handsome and kind; and she falls for him immediately. They were married for eleven years, (during which time and she bore him six children, only one of whom survived infancy), but those years are almost completely glossed over in the book and we do not really get to see or learn much of James at all, other than that his religious fervour is a frequent cause of discord between him and Margaret, and that he is not a faithful husband. Seeing their relationship from only one side serves only to distance James from the reader and I thought made Margaret frequently seem petulant and childish.
Margaret does grow throughout the story, but finds it difficult to work out where her loyalties lie; and her desire – incompatible with her position – to be loved for herself and not for her status as queen, leads her to make some unwise decisions when it comes to her personal life. She is often selfish and extravagant, and seems to have an enormous capacity for self-deception; but she is utterly determined to do the best for her son and to secure his throne.
In terms of the writing, the book is an easy read – although I did find the author’s insistence at using “canna” (cannot) and “dinna” (did not) to somehow denote a Scottish accent incredibly annoying. There was an overuse of exclamation marks in the first part of the book which was similarly irritating. There was also a tendency for the author to suddenly jump forward a couple of years without any indication of which year it was, which I felt made for confusion.
There seems to be a trend in Historical Fiction at the moment to write using a first person narrative, and that is the case here. I’ve said in previous reviews that this is not my favourite style of narration and I have yet to read a book to make me change my mind. I can understand that it is perhaps thought to bring a greater degree of intimacy and immediacy to the reader, but in my opinion, that advantage is not nearly enough to compensate for the things that are lost by confining the story to a single point of view. This period in history is full of conflicts between nations, power-struggles between factions and within families – the courts of Europe were awash with intrigue and political machinations which are often as mind-boggling as they are fascinating – so unless the writer is going to continually slip into “as you know, Bob” dialogue, (which does happen here) first person narration can severely limit the scope of the story.
Margaret’s story is a fascinating one and one that certainly merits further exploration. This book might serve as an introduction to her life, but it didn’t draw me in and make me feel ‘connected’ to the story. I will say, however, that if you are interested in Margaret’s life, and don’t find first person narration as objectionable as I do, then you might find The Forgotten Queen to your taste.
With thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for the review copy.
I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader. I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back! I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too.