In this author's fictionalized history, Margaret of York leaves England in the late 15th century, during the last turbulent years of the War of the Roses, to be wed to Charles of Burgundy. When Edward IV takes the English throne, the York's ascendant at last, the country remains bedeviled by the armies of Margaret d' Anjou, wife of the incompetent Henry VI, on behalf of the Lancastrians. Margaret of York's marriage is meant to cement the relationship with Burgundy, forming a barrier to Louis of France, who manipulates behind the scenes for his country's advantage. Saddened to leave her brothers, Edward IV, George of Clarence and Richard of York, Margaret understands her duty; she has harbored dreams of romantic love, a scenario unlikely for one of royal birth, whose marriage is arranged for political advantage, love incidental and rare. Nevertheless she has set her affections on Anthony Woodville, married brother of Edward's controversial new queen, Elizabeth Woodville.
Edward has been expected to marry well at the diplomatic direction of "the Kingmaker", the earl of Warwick, but Edward shocks everyone by choosing Elizabeth, besotted with her beauty. Soon the clever new queen begins a systematic positioning of family members, upsetting the powerful Neville's. While Edward indulges himself with a woman who will bring as much trouble to his reign as did the infamous Margaret d' Anjou, Margaret of York has no such luxury, her only comfort the company of Anthony Woodville on the voyage to Burgundy. Knowing they are not meant to be together, Margaret and Anthony's unrequited love is the only balm the young wife will know for many years as Charles's mate. The Duke of Burgundy is an ambitious, warlike man, determined not to be like his womanizing father. Not at his best when dealing with the weaker sex, Charles does not require much of Margaret, nor does he give much.
Quickly realizing that her marriage will be far from what she had imagined, Margaret adapts, affectionately welcoming Charles's daughter, Mary, his heir, learning the language of her subjects and moving frequently from place to place to keep the peace against Charles' constant demands for more troops and taxes to fund his aggressions. Easter Smith portrays a courageous, lonely woman who is beloved of her people, unable to bear children and brutalized by her husband. Buoyed by secret missives from Woodville over the years, Margaret learns of England's continuing trouble from afar, Warwick's rebellion, George of Clarence's foolish ambitions and Louis's evil machinations, clinging to a fanciful love but enduring a painful existence. Ably written from the perspective outside England, the second half of the lengthy novel is more rewarding than the first, Margaret coming into her own through a series of challenges that she must face alone.
Margaret's drama is powerful, her heart with her country, yet also with her new home and her loyal retainers and counselors. It is a lonely place for a woman with enormous responsibility, who asks little from life but love. Easter Smith makes her fictional case, and well- by the end I am caught up in Margaret's world, hoping for the impossible only to be shocked by the final chapter and the Author's Note. Luan Gaines/ 2008.