The Wars of the Roses turned England upside down. Between 1455 and 1485 four kings lost their thrones, more than forty noblemen lost their lives on the battlefield or their heads on the block, and thousands of the men who followed them met violent deaths. Yet almost nothing is known about the thoughts and feelings of the people who lived through this bloody conflict, whether king or noble, landowner or peasant. Almost nothing, but not quite. As they made their way in a disintergrating world, a Norfolk family called the Pastons were writing letters - about politics, about business, about shopping, about love and about each other. Extraordinarily, these letters have survived the centuries; they form the earliest great collection of private correspondence in the English language. More than five hundred years on, the Pastons' voices still have the immediacy of an overheard conversation. Blood and Roses traces the remarkable story of the Paston family across three generations. The world of the fifteenth-century aristocracy was a world of cut-throat snobbery and vicious power struggles, and the Pastons were newcomers to the grame: an ambitious nouveau riche family striving to establish themselves among the landed gentry. They took part in the Wars of the Roses in supporting roles, but they were extraordinary characters in their own right: William Paston, the self-made man who founded the family's fortunes; his son John Paston, who embarked on his own battle to inherit the estates of the rich old soldier Sir John Fastolf, the model of Shakespeare's Falstaff; John's wife Margaret, who held the family together for forty years, raised seven children and defended the family's property from armed assault along the way; and their sons John II - a courtier with a passion for books and an eye for female company - and John III, the sensible, reliable brother, whose touching correspondence with his sweetheart includes the earliest surviving valentine in England. Helen Castor explores the Pastons' experiences of birth, marriage, death and the realities of daily life, and unravels the turbulent politics of the family's affairs against the backdrop of civil war between York and Lancaster. The result is a vivid evocation of the medieval world. Blood and Roses draws on a wealth of original historical research to tell the dramatic, moving, often funny and always human story of how one family survived one of the most tempestuous periods in English history.