I love Philippa Gregory. I love the Cousin’s War series: The White Queen, The Lady of the Rivers, and The Red Queen are so strong and compelling that I couldn’t wait to read The White Princess (the conclusion of the series.)
But – I was disappointed by TWP. While reading the other three books in the series, I was eager to get back into the story on my lunch breaks and before bed. I didn’t necessarily feel this way with TWP.
My main gripe with this novel is that as a stand alone, it’s weak. Compared to the rest of the series, it does not match up. What makes it weak? Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. I just felt like the same descriptions, lines of dialogue, and character arc (ish?? Do the characters ever really change?) just repeated and stalled. What also makes this novel different to the others in the series is that Elizabeth of York is not as strong of a protagonist as Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, or Jacquetta Woodville. Rather than making things happen like the latter three, Elizabeth of York lets things happen to her. Now, I completely understand the historical context – as a woman, she only had so much power and Gregory had to work within set out historical facts. That being said, this is historical fiction. Gregory often points out that her work is fiction and that people should not take it as fact. So if it’s historical fiction, make Elizabeth of York more fiery or defiant or even proactive – all within the confines of historical fact (i.e. conversations behind closed doors, not recorded by history.)
I find it hard to believe that Elizabeth of York apparently “grows to love’ Henry VII – a man who, as Gregory has fictionalized, raped Elizabeth while they were betrothed. A man who was her family’s enemy. A man who is cold and suspicious of her throughout the entire novel. I found myself getting so fed up of Henry’s constant accusations of Elizabeth, and whether that was on purpose to make the reader feel how Elizabeth felt, I don’t know. But it was off putting.
There were parts that I enjoyed. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book was when “the boy” and Katherine Huntly come to court – but that happens in the last third! And then the book just kind of ends abruptly.
I won’t tell anyone to avoid this book because I believe everyone has different tastes. But from a prose and structure point of view – Philippa Gregory has proved she can do better. Maybe there were pressures from her publishing house to complete a new book in a smaller time frame. Even the cover image doesn’t seem up to par with the others. Because I know Gregory can do better, I’m going to chalk TWP up to the money-hungry/business end of all this.