The Wars of the Roses was a bloody era of murder and mayhem featuring epic battles for political dominance between the Yorks and Lancasters. Red Rose, White Rose tells us the the story of Cecily Neville from before her marriage to Richard of York to the moment her son, Edward IV, assumes the throne.
There are two narrators in the story, Cecily and Sir Cuthbert, Cecily’s half-brother. Cecily Neville is known primarily in the history books as someone’s wife or mother. She was of royal blood – a descendent of King Edward III, as is every key player in the Wars of the Roses. Sir Cuthbert is a fictional character though you would never guess it. He feels real. I was surprised to find out that he was fictional. The addition of the character is a good one though as it allows us to see the battles of the time which Cecily would not have witnessed.
Cecily has an affair in this novel. Not the affair that is alluded to in the history books that questions Edward IV’s legitimacy but another affair. Is it possible that the real ‘Proud Cecily’, known for her haughtiness, had an affair and with a lowly archer at that? Although she is highly class-conscious in the novel, the Cecily that we see may also have been a physically and emotionally unsatisfied wife who may not always have been faithful to her husband. Richard of York is not an easy man to live with. I used to always prefer the Yorks to the Lancasters but in the last few novels I’ve read I have really disliked Richard. Even so, the romance between Sir John and Cecily is a bit hard to accept and it is hard to believe that in the 1400s her brother, even if he was a bastard, would aid and abet it.
As terrible as Richard of York comes across though, he is nothing compared to Henry Holland. I googled him because I didn’t know anything about him. The novel made me hate him and google didn’t endear him to me any more.
As with Hickson’s other books, Red Rose, White Rose is 500+ pages but it didn’t feel like it. It is an easy read without being simple. I would definitely recommend it to fans of historical fiction.