Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Review and Guest Post: Pale Rose of England by Sandra Worth

Publish Date: February 1st 2011
Format: Paperback 464pp
Synopsis (From the Publisher):
"From the award-winning author of The King's Daughter comes a story of love and defiance during the War of the Roses.
It is 1497. The news of the survival of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, has set royal houses ablaze with intrigue and rocked the fledgling Tudor dynasty. With the support of Scotland's King James IV, Richard-known to most of England as Perkin Warbeck-has come to reclaim his rightful crown from Henry Tudor. Stepping finally onto English soil, Lady Catherine Gordon has no doubt that her husband will succeed in his quest.
But rather than assuming the throne, Catherine would soon be prisoner of King Henry VII, and her beloved husband would be stamped as an imposter. With Richard facing execution for treason, Catherine, alone in the glittering but deadly Tudor Court, must find the courage to spurn a cruel monarch, shape her own destiny, and win the admiration of a nation."

My Review:

"The princes in the tower", what thought comes to your mind when you hear that phrase? Most people would say that they were probably murdered by their ambitious and ruthless uncle, King Richard III, but there is another theory, one that is greatly debated yet quite plausible: the theory that Perkin Warbeck was actually Richard the lost prince, and it is this theory that Sandra Worth relays to us in her latest novel, Pale Rose of England.

Setting out for England, Richard and his wife Catherine are confident that their quest to reclaim the throne will be swift and sure, and these feelings are solidified when the English people look upon Richard with understanding that he is the true king; but while these people understand who Richard is, they also understand that he is not match for Henry VII... and this is where the trouble begins. Soon after they land on English soil, Richard and Catherine are separated and held at the mercy of Henry VII. Forced into subjection through threats against their children, Catherine and Richard must play along in Henry's game but strive to keep one move ahead while navigating the treacherous court.

With Pale Rose of England, Sandra Worth delivers a stunning novel of loyalty, bravery and heartbreaking love. By the very first chapter you are completely drawn into Richard and Catherine's world, basking in their love and aching with their sorrow. The plot flowed swiftly and was never lagging; the story unfolded with the perfect mixture of suspense and tender serenity. No matter if your loyalties lie with York or Lancaster, or what fate you think the princes met, this novel will have you questioning and thinking about all the possibilities. This was my first novel by Sandra Worth and I can definitely say that it shall not be my last!
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And now, I have a most delightful guest post by the lovely Sandra Worth:


Writing the Historical Novel: A Peek Behind the Scenes at Historical Research and Truth in History:


"Ever since I read my first historical novel as a child, I was hooked on girls in long dresses and men in shining armor. What I didn’t realize until I came to study history in college was how much I had learned from that one book by Anya Seton. That novel became my favorite forever, and she became my inspiration as a writer. But when it came to writing my own book, there was a two hundred year difference between the time period she had chosen and the era I had fallen in love with. Hers was a period of stability; mine was fraught with civil strife, namely, the Wars of the Roses.

Here, I’d like to digress a moment and explain something about the “facts” of history.

Researching the Wars of the Roses in twenty university libraries in the U.S., Canada, and in the U.K. back when the internet was in its infancy took me ten years because there was so much written on that period of history. And there was so much written because few historians agreed with one another on exactly what happened. So, each wrote a book to explain his reasons, and present his own case. As one renowned contemporary historian states, “Much in contemporary chronicles which is taken for fact is really not more than rumor, gossip of propaganda—a notable foundation of hearsay. No historian can claim he possesses a monopoly of the truth.” Ergo, it follows that no historical novelist can claim he or she possesses a monopoly of the truth.

In the thirty years it took to end one dynasty and begin another, much documentation was lost or destroyed, leaving facts in doubt and plenty of room for argument. Did Edward IV commit bigamy when he wed Elizabeth Woodville? Did Richard III murder the princes, or did Henry VII? Was a murder even committed? Was the pretender who challenged Henry VII for the throne really Richard, Duke of York, as he said he was, or the fraud that Henry VII claimed? Historians argue with one another on these matters and a myriad of other details. This includes even the dates of some fifteenth century battles, and where they were fought.

This problem affects all periods where documentation is scarce. Imagine a puzzle with a lot of holes. The “truth” in such cases becomes subject to dispute. When I was in Anatolia last year, I learned that historians have been arguing with one another—quite heatedly, as a matter of fact—about whether the gate I was viewing had been the main entrance to Troy. Some academics think it was too steep for carts, and therefore the main gate had to be somewhere else.

What compounds our difficulties with the period of the Wars of the Roses is – something we are all familiar with– politics.

It may come as a surprise that political agendas colored perception from ancient times forward to the present day. Most of what we know about the events before the invention of the printing press in the 16th century come from primary sources—eye-witness accounts, letters people wrote one another, diaries they kept (if they dared!) and chronicles penned by monks who took sides in the various conflicts. Sometimes the handwriting is illegible and the information is lost because it can’t be read. Sometimes these accounts conflict with one another because the people writing them held differing opinions of what was occurring around them (just as they do today). Over the centuries only these differing accounts of “the truth” were left for posterity. That leaves historians and novelists free to choose what interpretation they wish to derive from the “facts” of history.

During the Wars of the Roses, printing was in its infancy, and each side, York and Lancaster, tried to promote their version of events, so documents were also destroyed by those in power. Historians who encounter holes in the historical record string together the bits of information they have to try to guess what might have happened in the interim, but their opinions and scenarios differ with one another. Here, the old adage about life rings true about history as well—namely, only certainty is uncertainty. All we can do is rebuild the historical record around the few facts we have.

So, when it comes to the Wars of the Roses and telling the stories that live in my own heart, I use the historical record as my carpet (such as it is) and decorate the holes with my imagination. That’s where the importance of the author note comes in. In Lady of the Roses, thinking no one was interested in a lengthy author’s note, I offered a brief one. I soon realized my mistake. Both The King’s Daughter on Elizabeth of York, the first Tudor Queen, and Pale Rose of England on her brother, the younger prince in the Tower Richard, Duke of York, have extensive author notes so the reader understands exactly how I derived the story they just read.

As to whether you prefer your historicals to stay true to the facts or to change history for the sake of a story, that is entirely up to you. There are authors (and readers) who prefer stories where imagination dominates, and authors like me (and readers like mine) who prefer stories where accuracy prevails (within the confines discussed above). Basically, the question comes down to this. How much salt, and how much pepper do you prefer? Fortunately, there is historical fiction for any taste."
Author Bio:
Sandra Worth is the author of five books set during England's Wars of the Roses. Each is the recipient of multiple awards and prizes. Pale Rose of England, her latest novel, released in February 2011, follows the adventures of the dazzling Scottish princess, Lady Catherine Gordon, wife to the Pretender “Perkin Warbeck”, aka Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the two little princes in the Tower. For more information view the YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BExjWBraek ) or visit her on Facebook ( http://www.facebook.com/#!/sandraworthauthor or on her website, www.sandraworth.com


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