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18 May, 2012

Thwarted Queen by Cynthia Sally Haggard

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.
This book is filled with many voices, not least those of the Londoners, who forged their political destiny by engaging in public debate with the powerful aristocrats of the time. By their courageous acts, these fifteenth-century Londoners set the stage for American Democracy.
~~~ (Summary from Goodreads)~~~

The detailed summary of the book gives you a fair idea about the plot. So instead of repeating it, let me just tell you all about my thoughts on the book.

When I realized that the book is based on an actual character from history, I immediately checked out “Cecily Neville, Duchess of York” on Wikipedia so that I had a basic idea about what was being narrated.

The story is narrated by Cecylle – our leading lady. I found her to be very spirited, intuitive and a character of strength. While in reality King Edward IV was accused of illegitimacy that was never actually proved, in this novel the author clearly indicated that Cecylle in fact had an extramarital affair with a handsome archer and that Edward IV was illegitimate. However, Richard accepted Edward as his son. Overall, I find her life quite sad as she paid for her mistakes very dearly and managed to outlive her husband and all of her sons.

Though at times I found the story to be a bit dragging – which could be because I don’t like to read about war, I’d rather watch them on screen – it is actually pretty engrossing for most parts. It is all about the ‘drama’ of a noble family, their relationships, their feud over the throne and a lot of violence. The relationships portrayed are often complex and the author has done a marvelous job with them. That is the best part of the book – the character development and the relationships portrayed. There’s a certain charm in the author’s writing style that makes you feel right at home even in a completely different century!

I must also acknowledge here that amount of research that has gone into writing this book is amazing. Ms.Cynthia’s dedication deserves recognition.

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