Tuesday, March 16, 2010

ARC Review: The Stolen Crown

The Stolen Crown
Historical Fiction/England/1464-1483
Sourcebooks Landmark/March 2010
ARC from Publisher

From the author's website ~

When six-year-old Kate Woodville’s beautiful sister Elizabeth makes a shocking—and secret—marriage to King Edward IV in 1464, Kate and her large family are whisked to the king’s court. Soon a bedazzled Kate becomes one of the greatest ladies in the land when she marries young Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. But Kate’s fairy-tale existence as a duchess is shattered when the ongoing conflict between the houses of Lancaster and York engulfs the Woodville family.

As Edward IV fights to keep his crown, Harry’s relatives become hopelessly divided between Lancaster and York. Forced constantly to struggle with his own allegiances, Harry faces his defining moment when his dear friend Richard, Duke of Gloucester, determines to seize the throne for himself as Richard III. With lives in jeopardy and nothing less than a dynasty at stake, Harry’s loyalties—and his conscience—will be put to the ultimate test.

What a story Higginbotham has woven into this rich slice of English history. The characters may be real people long since dead but the emotions and distinct traits given to them bring them alive again and allow the reader to get to know these men and women. While this isn't my typical historical read, I found myself becoming immersed in the history of the Lancastrians and Yorks. The political intrigues of court life, marriages made for power and riches, wars fought for kingdoms; it all comes back to the people who lived those historical events.

There are very, very many characters needed to tell the story of the War of the Roses and the reigns of Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII. Included at the beginning of the book is a long list of the historical figures mentioned in the novel. It is arranged by family and I found very helpful in keeping the various characters and their relationships organized for me. The two main characters of the story are Harry Stafford, second Duke of Buckingham and his wife, Katherine Woodville. They are also the characters who's POV the story is written in.

Beginning when they are both children and going through their adulthood, Harry and Katherine are the storytellers. They give their unique perspectives of the events occurring around them as well as those they are directly part of. From the secret marriage of a king, to life at court, to the battles for the control of the crown; all seen through their eyes. I liked the way the two viewpoints were written. At the beginning, with Harry giving a more "male-centered" perspective and Kate the "female-centered" perspective. Over the course of time we see how their priorities changed as they grow older. And how their outlook on not only their futures but England's future changes.

The Woodvilles play a crucial role in Edward IV reign. Edward marries Elizabeth (Bess) Woodville in secret, making Kate the sister to the Queen. The Woodvilles are not well liked by many of the nobles, with many thinking they are reaching far above their station. There is fear of the power they will wield being related to the king. This puts Kate and Harry in the midst of many of the conflicts.

I have to say I found the life of the royal court and all the intrigue fascinating. Even though I know the history of the time and the outcome of the characters I still found my attention on the story, worrying about what would happen and how it would all turn out. Harry and Kate gave the extraordinary events a human facet. I loved how they were shown with all their flaws and insecurities. How they loved each other but still made mistakes and hurt the ones they loved most. It made them that much more human, that much more interesting. More than just names found in a history book.

The Stolen Crown is not what I would consider a light historical read by any means. It has it's share of sadness and despair. With some very complex plots and character relations to follow. But there is also happiness to be found, the pure joy of the moment they are able to find among the intrigue of the court. I'd forgotten how appealing I find reading about historical figures, about actual events and the people who lived them. The Stolen Crown has reminded me how captivating those people and events can be.

Rating: A-


  1. I really need to read this one -- I've been reading more and more non-fiction books and Elizabeth Woodville has been cropping up on my Tudor list serv quite a bit. As the mother of the two princes in the tower and Elizabeth of York (among several others between her two marriages), her history is fascinating.

  2. Amy ~ The Woodville feature prominately in the book. Kate and her siblings make for some interesting characters.

    Susan ~ thanks for writing such a fascinating story!

  3. Sounds like a great book, Leslie... but not sure it's for me :) Still, I love history - although I'm not too familiar with England's.

  4. nath ~ this would be one way to dive into that English history. I've always been fascinated by it.

  5. Hmm.. the Woodvilles and their feared power. We all know the cost of that fear. *sigh*

    This sounds like a great read and just up my alley. After reading The Tudor Rose last year, this sounds like a great follow-up read for me. Great review Leslie!

  6. Leslie, what a lovely review you have written here. I don't believe this novel is typical of my historical reads. I shamelessly admit I enjoy the fluff of historical romances with entirely fictitious characters and plots, yet constrained by realistic historical societies. However, your review is quite convincing that I should give this heavier historical read a try. Very well done, Leslie. :)

    p.s. I hope you're feeling better!

  7. Hils ~ I haven’t read The Tudor Rose but now I’ve got a taste for more from that time period. I’m sure my library has it so I’ll have to check it out. :)

    Christine ~ This isn’t a typical read for me either but I got pulled in anyways. Awe, thanks for asking, I'm feeling much better. :)