Book Tour Review: Thwarted Queen by Cynthia Haggard

Friday, February 15, 2013
Title: Thwarted Queen
Author: Cynthia Haggard
Series: Thwarted Queen #1
Pages: 480 (paperback edition)
Published: October 2011
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 4/5

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 becomes 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 was a surprise for me, for a number of reasons. Because of personal issues, it took me longer to get into and read than I would have liked, but once Cecylee gets her foot in the door, she is impossible to ignore. Talk about a strong, passionate female protagonist. Cynthia Haggard is a strong writer and her novel about one of the most tumultuous times in England's fascinating history is rich with detail and well-realized characters with very strong, individual voices. 15th century England readily comes to life under the author's research and knowledge, easily forming a setting and plot that will keep readers raptly entertained.

Cecylee is a woman with many faults, but I loved reading her inner monologue all the more for them. She's strong and passionate, foolhardy and determined. She makes mistakes and goes forth in her same manner. She is smart and self-possessed under pressure. The struggle for power that eventually shaped the lives of her family so intimately was constant from the beginning of her life, when she was betrothed at the tender age of nine.  Through all she and her family go through, she proves herself loyal (if in her own way) and capable in a way few women were allowed to be at the time. I've never read much about the mother of Edward IV and Richard III before, but this novel has sparked a new interest in her, and her extended, complicated family.

I lost a little steam heading into the later parts of the book, when the struggle and fights against the Lancastrian faction become more in earnest, but Haggard would find new ways to reel me right back into the story.  Haggard kept the pace moving right along and the story unwinding with ease. For a novel that clocks in at nearly 500 pages, it was a surprisingly fast and easy read. The research the author did is obvious, but not overpowering.The second half was a bit more uneven in storytelling, but the plot and story at the heart of the novel were always compelling, and most importantly, they both felt fresh. Despite the presence of another battle or fight, there was no feeling of "been there, read that" with this book. Even when historical figures I am more familiar with (Edward, Richard, etc.) came into the fore, this story remained Cecylee's.

Though I did wish Cecylee's affair with Blaybourne had more of a solid, believable foundation, it was one of my few complaints and I readily say this was an excellent start to Haggard's series about this little-known figure of the War of the Roses. A fascinating protagonist, a quick pace, and a sufficient amount of action all add up to a very good book and fun read. I would and hope to read the rest of the novels the author has written to see where she takes this story next. And again, this is a historical fiction novel with an author's note that is really just as engaging and worth reading. Much about Cecylee's life is still questioned, and the author's reasons for why she did what she did in the novel really add to the overall impact. 



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Friday, February 15

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Monday, February 18
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Tuesday, February 19
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Wednesday, February 20
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Friday, February 22
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Monday, February 25
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Tuesday, February 26
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Wednesday, February 27
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Thursday, February 28
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Friday, March 1
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