Title: The Reluctant Queen
Author: Jean Plaidy
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
How I Read It: Kindle edition purchased by me
Synopsis: In 1470, a reluctant Lady Anne Neville is betrothed by her father, the politically ambitious Earl of Warwick, to Edward, Prince of Wales, a Lancaster. A gentle yet fiercely intelligent woman, Anne has already given her heart to the younger brother of the Yorkist King, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
Unable to oppose her father’s will, she finds herself in line for the throne of England—an obligation that she does not want. Yet fate intervenes when Edward is killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury. Anne suddenly finds herself free to marry the man she loves—and who loves her in return.
The ceremony is held at Westminster Abbey, and the duke and duchess make a happy home at Middleham Castle, where both spent much of their childhood. Their life is idyllic, until the reigning king dies and a whirlwind of dynastic maneuvering leads to his children being declared illegitimate. Richard inherits the throne as King Richard III, and Anne is crowned queen consort, a destiny she thought she had successfully avoided.
Her husband’s reign lasts two years, two months, and two days—and in that short time Anne witnesses the true toll that wearing the crown takes on Richard, the last king from the House of York.
*Synopsis taken from Goodreads
My Review: Many history lovers are familiar with the general story of Richard III, but less so with his queen consort, Anne Neville. As their lives are quite intertwined from the beginning, this story really follows the two of them from early childhood through their adulthood, marriage, and beyond.
The book talks a lot about the political climate during this time in British history – we cover threats from the Lancastrians, to the York reign, back to plots against the Yorkists from a variety of individuals. It’s a wonder that Richard was even able to hold onto the throne for as long as he was, given the fact that his beloved brother, Edward IV, had so many problems despite his popularity.
History does not remember Richard III fondly, there is quite a bit of mystery surrounding how he came to the throne and what really happened to the York princes in the tower. While Plaidy doesn’t solve that mystery for us, she does a great job of painting Richard in a more sympathetic light, and gives a more plausible explanation for the events that occur during the time he ascended to the throne.
Like many young women in the same timeframe, Anne is largely a victim of whatever the men in her life want her to do. Plaidy does a great job of showing how Anne likely did her best to deal with the situations at hand. I especially liked that Margaret of Anjou was softened up a bit, with a hesitant friendship between her and Anne during the time they spend together.
I’m a huge fan of Jean Plaidy as a writer, I consider her to be one of the best historical fiction authors out there, and this book exemplifies why I believe this. She is excellent at telling the “other side” of the story, and I’ll never look at Richard III in the same way again.
Read this book if: I think any fan of Plaidy or War of the Roses historical fiction will enjoy this one.
My Rating: 4/5 – Borderline amazing!