The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wow. What an awesome novel! This would have taken me a lot longer to read at almost 500 pages, but it was so good it was difficult to put it down. Philippa Gregory is a master at historical fiction, and regardless of who the hero or heroine is, she makes you fall in love with the character.
Gregory herself calls it a "dark story." And in many ways it is. But it is also the story of a courageous, cultured, crafty, and careful heroine, Margaret Pole.
The book opens in 1499 while Henry VII is still on the throne. Margaret Pole, a Plantagenet by birth, granddaughter of the KingMaker Richard Neville, must live in fear of her name. Her father was the brother of Kings Edward IV and Richard III. Henry Tudor seized the crown upon killing Richard III in battle. To prevent her claim to the throne, she is married off to a Tudor supporter. Her brother Edward, however, had the clearest path to the throne, but they couldn't get rid of him by marrying him off. He was taken prisoner in the Tower and eventually beheaded for no crime except his name.
Margaret was a lady at the court and governess of Henry VII and Elizabeth's children, Arthur and Harry (who became Henry VIII). Later, she was lady of Ludlow Castle when Prince Arthur married Katherine of Aragon and became the Prince and Princess of Wales. Upon Arthur's death, she remained friends with Katherine who later married Harry. Margaret was the governess for their daughter Princess Mary (future queen). Confused yet?
Although the family lines are confusing, Gregory describes things in such a way as it makes perfect sense. The reader comes to know and love Margaret Pole and to root for her through all of her ups and downs. The reader comes to know her children as well, which was also quite interesting. At one point, she must give up one of her sons and send him to a monastery because she cannot support him. This son, Reginald, becomes a scholar, a Cardinal, and the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury.
The life of Lady Pole, Countess of Salisbury, is fascinating. Gregory will have you on the edge of your seat wanting to find out what happens next. There are more twist and turns than a soap opera and more deaths and plot twists than a thriller. The only thing that bothered me was that the main character frequently said, "It's early days yet." That is my only complaint. And while the key word in this genre is fiction, the reader learns some history during the ride. I highly recommend this book!
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