By Susan Higginbotham
Sourcebooks Landmark, January 2011
In her latest novel, Susan Higginbotham takes on the task of redeeming yet another maligned historical figure: Margaret of Anjou, wife of the ineffective King Henry VI and mother of the doomed Edward of Lancaster. Told in multiple first-person accounts (including a few from the grave), the story follows Margaret from her marriage to Henry as a sprightly girl of 14, through a few short happy years of marriage, to the decades of conflict and heartbreak that would later be known as The Wars of the Roses and led to her ignominious end.
Rather than an evil, heartless manipulator, Margaret is portrayed as a regular woman who loves her eccentric husband dearly; as he grows more distant and her son comes of age, that love is transformed into a determination to save her family from ruin. Instead of an emotionless monk or raving lunatic, Henry is shown as a loving husband, pious and mild-mannered but not completely useless. Their love is sweetly comfortable, even after separation and madness.
The prose stays within the parameters of this genre; there’s plenty of exposition, but it never feels unnecessarily packed in. Readers unfamiliar with the Wars of the Roses might be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information, but that’s par for the course with this time period. A more balanced view of Margaret might have been more convincing; it could be argued she’s been redeemed so much that she has few (if any) flaws left. Otherwise, however, the historical research is impeccable as always, the characters endearing, and the storytelling as engaging and entertaining as this author’s fans have come to expect. Another fine volume of biographical fiction from Susan Higginbotham.
Originally appeared in Historical Novels Society Reviews.