The Stone Rose
by Carol McGrath
London, 1350. Agnes, daughter of a stonemason, is struggling to keep her father’s trade in a city decimated by plague. And then she receives a mysterious message from the disgraced Queen Isabella: mother of King Edward III, and widow of Edward II. Isabella has a task that only Agnes can fulfil. She wants her truth to be told.
Much has been whispered of the conflicts in Isabella and Edward’s marriage. Her greed and warmongering. His unspoken love for male favourites. But as Agnes listens to Isabella, she learns that she can be of help to the queen – but can either woman choose independence, follow her own desires, and survive?
The sweeping third instalment of Carol McGrath’s acclaimed She-Wolves Trilogy: the gripping series exploring the tumultous lives and loves of three queens of England – and of three women who lived in their shadow.
Based on the extraordinary true story of the female stonemason who carved a queen’s tomb.
Such an excellent novel! Here is my review on Goodreads:
I knew I would enjoy The Stone Rose for Ms McGrath’s impeccable biographical fiction skills…I was even more delighted to be so enthralled with her creative narrative that brings this complex period of history to life. The depth and detail of Ms McGrath’s research gives us enlightening insights to draw our own opinions of Edward II and Queen Isabella, their ambitions, weaknesses and terrible mistakes. The Stone Rose brings us into the centre of medieval politics and machinations, and bursting with a massive cast of characters, Isabella’s story is one that takes time and concentration to fully appreciate. Ms McGrath’s impressive scholarly skills guide us on the queen’s journey capably and with authority, and I learned a great deal about this time.
That being said, my true joy in this novel was the story of Agnes, who starts with her own precipitous journey through plague-ruined England. In contrast to the ebullience and restlessness of the court, Agnes takes us into a world as spare and unyielding as the stones she carves, and I would have enjoyed even more of her world. Both stories intertwine to illustrate the enduring power of women – both Isabella and Agnes find a way to survive and thrive in what is essentially an unforgiving and challenging world.
Ms McGrath has written a fascinating and memorable novel, with beautiful narrative, enthralling characters and immersive detail. These women’s stories will stay with me for a long time, as I think about the full spectrum of medieval world. The Stone Rose is a window into that world that I highly recommend.
Carol McGrath is the author of the acclaimed She-Wolves Trilogy, which began with the hugely successful The Silken Rose and The Damask Rose, and continues with The Stone Rose. Born in Northern Ireland, she fell in love with historical fiction at a young age, when exploring local castles, such as Carrickfergus, and nearby archaeological digs – and discovering some ancient bones herself. While completing a degree in history, she became fascinated by the strong women who were silenced in record and was inspired to start exploring their lives. Her first novel, The Handfasted Wife, was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards, and Mistress Cromwell was widely praised as a timely feminist retelling of Tudor court life. Her novels are known for their intricacy, depth of research and powerful stories.
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