Review: The White Princess (The Cousins’ War #5) by Philippa Gregory

Red rose. White rose. Lancaster. York. The War of the Roses is a widely known period in history.

The war ended with the marriage of Henry Tudor to his York bride, Elizabeth of York….the Union Rose bloomed in England as a new symbol of unity, but there were still a number of subjects who wished to see a White Rose on the throne.

Elizabeth of York was not in love with Henry Tudor…not in the least. In fact she was in love with Richard III and has been his lover for a number of years.

After his death, she learned she was to marry Henry instead to ensure a symbolic union between an old house and a new monarchy.

She vows to do her duty to her family, but when she meets Henry for the first time, he has other designs. He intends to get her with child first before they marry and he refuses to crown her his queen until she had produced a male heir.

Once she is with child, Elizabeth hopes her life will begin to take on some normalcy at court, but she soon discovers that there are those who still hold loyalties to the York dynasty, one of the most ardent supporters of the Yorkists is her own mother.

The Queen Consort, Elizabeth Woodville, plots and schemes to overthrow the Tudor family in any way that she can, regardless if her daughter is Queen or not….her loyalty is to her family name.

Elizabeth finds no sympathy from her new husband and his mother, to them you are either a Tudor or an enemy. Elizabeth is under constant supervision and neither Henry nor his mother trust her, regardless if she is his wife or not….she is still suspect.

Though he is paranoid about Elizabeth, Henry can’t help but be attracted to her. She is beautiful and the mother of his children and his queen….he wants nothing more than to love her and trust her but he can’t bring himself to let down his guard, especially while things are so unstable in England. He has won the throne but only just….if the Tudor empire is to thrive he must keep his friends close and enemies closer.

Henry’s court is a cesspool of alliances, betrayals, and conflicting loyalties. She must navigate this treacherous world to help her family survive, she is in a constant state of tug-of-war between Tudor, (the house of her husband and child) and York, the house of her parents and her great love.

I absolutely loved Gregory’s storytelling! She is truly the master of Tudor era lit! I can see why everyone calls her the Queen of Tudor Historic Fiction! This novel was my first ever Gregory novel. So I was of course concerned that I would be lost in the story and series but she made it easy to follow along and understand a difficult and confusing period in history.

She has obviously done her research on the period and knows Tudor history backward and forward. This novel is of course part history and part fiction, I loved reading Gregory’s “theory” on what happened to the Princes in the Tower….compelling and it had the ring of truth.

The prose and linguistic style was both fluid but not overly modern. It fit well with in the period and flowed nicely for me. The chapters were full of action and things happening in the plot for the most part and kept the story moving forward,. There were limited chapters that filled the book with some fluff between events which was held my interest.

The language and pace of the chapters ebbed and flowed with the novel and worked to enhance the feelings of fear and unease that many of the characters were feeling throughout the novel as well.

Gregory also used a lot of dramatic irony throughout the story which for me sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t….in this case it was a grand slam! I loved how she utilized this tool to her advantage.

I loved how she portrayed Henry VII. He came across as neurotic and completely paranoid! At first she makes him anything but likable and then as the story goes on you can’t help but develop a tender understanding and a flicker of admiration for the poor King.

As for Elizabeth, I was hot and cold about her character. I loved that she persevered and triumphed in her situation. She clearly had a heart of gold and was so naive about court life and royal politics you couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.

However, that same naive quality that I loved about her, also got old after some time. I felt like she was always saying “I don’t know” about everything and I found myself as a reader wondering how she could NOT know because it was obvious to the reader why wasn’t it obvious to her. So that did grate on my nerves and made me like her, but not love her.

If you haven’t heard, STARZ is set to air the highly anticipated new series, The White Queen, on Aug 10th 2013.  The White Princess comes after The White Queen in the Cousin’s War series, so if you are planning on reading The White Queen before the show debuts then I would get reading now!

As a side note, the show looks like it’s going to be a sexy new vision geared toward younger audiences and new fans of Gregory’s novels! I cannot WAIT to see it! I am getting STARZ just so I can watch The White Queen!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The White Princess (The Cousins’ War #5) by Philippa Gregory

  • Hardcover, 528 pages
  • Published July 23rd 2013 by Touchstone
  • ISBN 1451626096 (ISBN13: 9781451626094)
  • Review copy provided by: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

This book counts toward: 2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Recommendation: 4 out of 5

Genre: Historic fiction, Tudor era lit

Memorable lines/quotes: 

A princess does not share her grief with all the world.

There is nothing in the world more powerful than a woman who knows what she wants and walks a straight road toward it.

6 thoughts on “Review: The White Princess (The Cousins’ War #5) by Philippa Gregory

  1. I just read The White Queen and really enjoyed it. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. I know so little about British royal history, so I’m looking forward to learning.

  2. The Tudor era is something I rarely read about in historical fiction, although I enjoy historical fiction the most, in terms of genre. Phillipa also has a really good reputation. I think I will get into her books some time sooner or later.

  3. Sounds good, nice review. I’ve been thinking of jumping into this series and this just makes me want to do that even more. And I like the look of the Starz production too!

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