Queen by Right, Anne Easter Smith
I absolutely LOVED this author's novel about Richard III, A Rose for the Crown, and thoroughly enjoyed her novel about Richard's sister Margaret (Daughter of York) and Edward IV's illegitimate daughter Grace (The King's Grace). When I heard Ms. Smith was publishing another novel in her York series I was thrilled and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it! I was not disappointed.
This novel steps back in time (before the events of her other three novels) and tells the fascinating story of Cecily Neville, wife to Richard, Duke of York, and mother to Edward IV and Richard III. Readers familiar with Edward and Richard's stories know who their mother is but she usually only appears for a brief time in most novels. Her tale begins as the Duchess, mourning the death of her husband, looks back on her life, starting with when she was only nine and first met Richard Plantagenet. Through her reflections we see not only how she manages to make her way through this incredibly turbulent time in English history but also the true and deep love she and Richard shared throughout their lives. I really enjoyed Cecily's character and felt drawn into her story. As a child she was outspoken and headstrong, two traits she never really grew out of but was able to control in later years. As a woman she was beautiful and proud but much loved for her kindness. I enjoyed how the author showed the many trying events and people that caused Cecily to become very pious later in her life (having just had a baby myself my heart ached for Cecily when she lost her first children). It was fascinating to watch not only Cecily's character develop and grow because of what she was dealing with but her husband Richard's as well. Theirs was a unique relationship in a time when men generally did not discuss business or politics with their wives. Richard not only discussed issues with Cecily but (sometimes) listened to her advice. Richard, Duke of York, was another character that I genuinely enjoyed learning about since, as with Cecily, his character and personality is usually not developed in novels covering this time period as most authors prefer to focus on their sons. Beyond the wonderful character development, Ms. Smith has created a very realistic and believable medieval world for the reader. There is not an abundance of action in this novel but I did not expect much considering it is based on the life of a woman; much of the information comes from word of mouth or letters. This does not detract from the story in my opinion and I had no problem with the way the novel was laid out.
I have no problems recommending this novel to any reader. Yorkists will enjoy this look into the life of the family matriarch and those just beginning to delve into this very chaotic time period will not find themselves overwhelmed with the story. Queen by Right is intended to be the first of the author's York series but it certainly can be read as a stand alone novel. Bravo to Anne Easter Smith for another beautiful and fantastic look at the York family.