Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: The Red Queen (The Cousin's War #2) by Philippa Gregory

The Red Queen (The Cousin's War #2) by Philippa Gregory
Release Date:  19th September 2010 
Simon and Schuster
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 2.0/5.0

This book was read as part of the 2012 OTS and 2012 ATS Challenge

Summary from Amazon:
buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
"Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England and that she has a great destiny before her. Her ambitions are disappointed when her sainted cousin Henry VI fails to recognize her as a kindred spirit, and she is even more dismayed when he sinks into madness. Her mother mocks her plans, revealing that Margaret will always be burdened with the reputation of her father, one of the most famously incompetent English commanders in France. But worst of all for Margaret is when she discovers that her mother is sending her to a loveless marriage in remote Wales.
Married to a man twice her age, quickly widowed, and a mother at only fourteen, Margaret is determined to turn her lonely life into a triumph. She sets her heart on putting her son on the throne of England regardless of the cost to herself, to England, and even to the little boy. Disregarding rival heirs and the overwhelming power of the York dynasty, she names him Henry, like the king; sends him into exile; and pledges him in marriage to her enemy Elizabeth of York’s daughter. As the political tides constantly move and shift, Margaret charts her own way through another loveless marriage, treacherous alliances, and secret plots. She feigns loyalty to the usurper Richard III and even carries his wife’s train at her coronation.

Widowed a second time, Margaret marries the ruthless, deceitful Thomas, Lord Stanley, and her fate stands on the knife edge of his will. Gambling her life that he will support her, she then masterminds one of the greatest rebellions of the time—all the while knowing that her son has grown to manhood, recruited an army, and now waits for his opportunity to win the greatest prize.

In a novel of conspiracy, passion, and coldhearted ambition, number one bestselling author Philippa Gregory has brought to life the story of a proud and determined woman who believes that she alone is destined, by her piety and lineage, to shape the course of history."

I had high expectations of this book, because I had heard so much about Philippa Gregory's writing, and I'm a big fan of historical fiction. And I really enjoyed reading about the history side of things. Gregory did quite well to create an unstable England, with the House of Lancaster and the House of York fighting a 'cousins war' over the right to rule England. But that's where the praise for this book stops.
Unfortunately, my immense dislike for the protagonist of the novel, the Lady Margaret, tainted the entire novel for me. She was entirely consumed by greed and self righteousness, but apparently this was justified because her actions were the 'will of God'. Not only this, but she was depicted as extremely jealous of the Queen Elizabeth, and I just didn't find that trait attractive in a protagonist. The Lady Margaret was deceitful, untrustworthy and downright rude to anyone who she perceived as beneath herself, and I really didn't enjoy reading about this woman's story.
Not only did this book include a protagonist that I disliked, but it was also highly religious in nature. And I know that England back in the 1400s was a religious place, but Lady Margaret took that a bit further (she believed that she had 'saintly' visions). It was a bit too much for me to handle, and I really struggled to get into this book because the beginning was very focused on Lady Margaret and her religion. Overall, this was not a book I enjoyed. I will read Philippa Gregory again, but probably not in the immediate future. 

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