Mary’s Bookcase: An Absolute Triumph

I was thrilled to stop by Mary’s Bookcase on Launch Day of The Godmother’s Secret. And absolutely over the moon with this fabulous review.
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“This is treason, Margaret.”
“This is destiny, Elysabeth.”
The King is dead — Long live the King. But the Wheel of Fortune is forever turning and family rivalry, jealousy and ambition threaten to destroy the fragile peace that occurred in the final years of Edward IV’s reign. Edward’s young son is expected to inherit the crown, but there are forces at work which will ensure he never becomes king.
The Godmother’s Secret by Elizabeth St.John is the harrowing story of the final years of the Plantagenet reign.
Told in the first person from Elysabeth Scrope of Bolton’s perspective, this is the story of one women who is determined to save her godson and his brother from all the horrors of the world, and if she has to defy her king to do so, then so be it. Elysabeth is a character that I instantly connected to. She is a gentle and exceedingly loving person who has had her own share of grief, but when she is commanded to be the godmother to Elizabeth Woodville’s son, she cannot help but fall in love with him and from the day of his birth she vows that she will protect him from all who may wish him harm. It is a vow she takes very seriously and is one she is willing to risk everything for.
The recurring theme in this novel is somewhat surprising, for within these pages we witness the rise and fall of the fabled Camelot. Arthur’s role is taken up by Edward (son of Edward IV) and Lancelot’s role falls to his Uncle Richard (Duke of Gloucester). Elysabeth carves out her own role as she seeks her own sovereynté. Even if you do not know the history behind the story, one can still sense the fated doom. Arthur must fall, and it must be because of Lancelot’s betrayal. However, there is another lurking in the shadows that will bring the Plantagenet House crashing down around them. One might immediately think that Henry Tudor would be cast as Mordred, but I think that in this story, Mordred is Henry’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort.
Margaret is such a cold-hearted and calculated woman and yet she somehow makes the victims of her ambition seemingly compliant to their own destruction. Elysabeth must be careful, even thought Margaret is her sister. Margaret’s ambition for her son, Henry Tudor, knows no limits. The author has portrayed Margaret as a woman who hides her true intentions behind a mask of piety. And yet, there is a darkness in her soul, a relentless aspiration, an obsession, that torments everyone she meets. Her inability to see past her own wants and desires is a stark contrast to Elysabeth, and although there are similarities (they both love their sons deeply) Elysabeth is more concerned with ensuring the boy’s safety, whereas Margaret, under a veil of motherly concern and wants, is determined to see her son crowned king. Elysabeth has a very open heart and even though she is a faithful Lancastrian at the beginning of this book, her love for the boys, especially Ned, is absolute and she will do everything within her power to ensure he has a future, even if it is vastly different to the one he had been promised. Margaret’s love for her son is tempered by her ambition for his future. For a woman who loves so deeply, it is difficult to decipher where Margaret the mother begins and where Margaret the mother of the would-be king ends. As sisters Margaret and Elysabeth could not be more different, and yet, family ties and obligations mean their lives run parallel to each other – what happens to one, affects what happens to the other. I thought Margaret’s portrayal was fabulously depicted, she is a very complex character who does nothing if it does not advance her goals.
Richard III is always a difficult character to get to grips with. His reputation in life and death was sullied by Tudor propaganda, and the truth behind those two years of his reign is darkened by stories of corruption and murder. St.John has given her readers a Richard who is ambitious but also generous of spirit — at times I really liked him, but then I remembered that this was a man not above killing those he saw as rivals. He fears the Woodville’s ambitions and so crushes them with an unforgiving fist. He even has Edward’s half-brother executed. He is no innocent party, and as soon as Bishop Shaw declared Edward’s children bastards, then Richard willingly takes up the mantle and becomes king. Elysabeth is left with a sense of confusion and fear. Who is this Richard? Is he a man to be feared or a man to be revered? I thought Richard’s depiction was very honest in its delivery. He is both a righteous king, but is also ruthless. There is an underlying current of malice to his nature, but there is also a tender side to him. Richard is a flawed character who is filled with contradictions. His character came across as very believable.
The historical detail in this novel is outstanding. The hours of research that have gone into this book shine through in this utterly enthralling story. Having read many a story on the rise and fall of King Richard III it was refreshing to read a new take from a different angle on the events that led up to Richard becoming king and then finally dying at that ill-fated battle at Bosworth fields.
This book does not threaten to mesmerise, it really does and although this is no short read, I was so enthralled with it, that I read it in one sitting – I stayed up very late in the night to reach the final, almost fatalistic, full stop. This novel captured the very essence of this era and was simply unputdownable. In all ways, this book is an absolute triumph.