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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wars of the Roses - from the Lancaster perspective
This is the second book in Philippa Gregory's new series set during the Wars of the Roses, a tumultuous period of English history in which the rival houses of York and Lancaster struggled for power. In The White Queen we met Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV of York, sister-in-law of Richard III and mother of the two young princes who mysteriously disappeared in the...
Published on 20 Aug 2010 by Helen S

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't come close to her other works!
I love reading Philippa Gregory's books so was very excited to read the sequel to The White Queen. Unfortunately I was rather disappointed. Even overlooking Gregory's portrayal of the central character as utterly unlikeable, resulting in the reader having little or no empathy for her, the obsessive nature of her character lead to the writing becoming repetitive, tiresome...
Published on 2 Aug 2011 by Alicia


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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wars of the Roses - from the Lancaster perspective, 20 Aug 2010
By 
Helen S - See all my reviews
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This is the second book in Philippa Gregory's new series set during the Wars of the Roses, a tumultuous period of English history in which the rival houses of York and Lancaster struggled for power. In The White Queen we met Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV of York, sister-in-law of Richard III and mother of the two young princes who mysteriously disappeared in the Tower of London in 1483. The Red Queen is the story of another woman who also played an important part in the Wars of the Roses: Margaret Beaufort of Lancaster, the mother of King Henry VII.

Although this is the second book in the series, I wouldn't really describe it as a sequel - that is, The Red Queen doesn't just pick up where The White Queen left off. The two books overlap somewhat and cover some of the same events, but from opposing sides of the conflict. You don't really need to have read the first book to understand this one, although it would probably make sense to read them in the correct order. I really like the concept of two books each telling the story from a different perspective; throughout much of The White Queen, Margaret Beaufort and the Tudors were shadowy characters in the background, plotting and scheming from afar, so it was good to have them take centre stage in The Red Queen.

One of the themes running throughout the book is Margaret's belief that God has chosen her to be another Joan of Arc, who will lead the House of Lancaster to victory, and that God's will is for her son Henry Tudor to be crowned King. Margaret was not very likeable - in fact she came across as a very cold, ambitious and unpleasant person - but as far as I can tell, this is probably true of the historical Margaret. I was surprised that I could still enjoy this book despite the narrator being so unsympathetic; sometimes obnoxious characters can be fun to read about, and I found Margaret's uncharitable thoughts about the House of York and the Woodville family quite funny at times.

I can't really comment on the historical accuracy of this book because I have never studied the period in any depth - however, my lack of knowledge meant that I could just concentrate on enjoying the story! The Wars of the Roses were a complex and long-running series of conflicts, during which many of the key players changed their allegiances several times (and just to confuse things further, many of them also had the same names - lots of Henrys and Edwards, for example) but Philippa Gregory has made it easy to understand and follow what's going on. I do think a more detailed family tree would have been helpful though - the one provided in the book was incomplete and I didn't find it very useful.

The book is written in the same format as The White Queen, with most of the story being told in the first person present tense, occasionally switching to the third person to relate important events at which Margaret was not present, such as the Battle of Bosworth Field. I really like the way Philippa Gregory writes battle scenes using language that I can understand, as I often find reading about battles very confusing! The whole book is written in quite simplistic prose and can be repetitive at times, but it always held my attention and drew me into the story.

If you are new to the Wars of the Roses - a fascinating period of history - then I would recommend either The Red Queen or The White Queen as an excellent starting point. I also think that if you've tried Philippa Gregory in the past and didn't find her books to your taste, it could be worth giving her another chance as these newest books are quite different from the Tudor ones that I've read.
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118 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ambitious woman behind the Tudor dynasty, 20 Aug 2010
By 
V. O'Regan (Warwickshire, England) - See all my reviews
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In the second novel in this series about the Wars of the Roses, Philippa Gregory switches her focus from the House of York to the House of Lancaster and specifically to Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor, later Henry VII.

I did not warm to Margaret as I did Elizabeth Neville but she emerges here as a fascinating, dangerous woman, who put her ambitions for her son and House above all else.

Margaret tells her own story from the age of nine and emerges quickly as a deeply religious young woman who would have welcomed a life within the Church. Instead, due to her royal lineage, she is required to make an advantageous marriage with another family of the royal line. Thus, she is married at the age of twelve to Edmund Tudor, who was twice her age. This union resulted in her giving birth when she was thirteen to her only child, Henry. Edmund died in captivity when Margaret was pregnant. When another marriage was arranged by her family a few years later she was required to leave Henry in Wales to be raised by his uncle, Jasper Tudor.

As time passes Margaret's desire to see the House of Lancaster restored to its position and her son claim the throne of England becomes an all consuming obsession. She is quite willing for those who stand between Henry and the crown to die and to see the entire country plunged into bloody warfare to achieve this end.

As the narrative progresses Margaret as the Red Queen and Elizabeth Neville as the White Queen take on an almost archetypal quality as if they are queens in a game of chess that will determine the future of England.

Margaret Beaufort's sense of self-righteousness and ruthless ambition was quite astonishing. Even though the young Margaret in her girlish devotion to Joan of Arc was sympathetic, I found myself getting quite emotional as the novel continued and my dislike of Margaret grew and grew, especially when she and Lord Thomas Stanley joined forces. Of course, the outcome and Margaret's triumph is a matter of history. In the final chapters of the book, the perspective leaves Margaret to observe the unfolding of the fateful events of August 1485 . Again, as I found with The White Queen, Gregory handles battle scenes well. I've seen the re-enactments at Bosworth Fields a few times and she really brought it to life on the page.

In the end-notes Gregory includes details of her main sources, suggestions for further reading and of course a reminder that this is a work of historical fiction and as such is a combination of historical truth, informed speculation and the author's imagination.

While I was reading, the image that came to my mind for this series was of a set of vibrant, living tapestries; each providing a different view on the theme of royal women connected to Wars of the Roses. If Elizabeth Woodville's tapestry teemed with images of nature, flowing water, magic and love; then by contrast Margaret's weaves in images of piety, worship, fire and battles. I was deeply pleased to read that Philippa Gregory intends to write at least four more books in this series bringing her considerable talent as a story-teller and her passion and integrity to this complex and rich period of history.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't come close to her other works!, 2 Aug 2011
This review is from: The Red Queen (Cousins War 2) (Paperback)
I love reading Philippa Gregory's books so was very excited to read the sequel to The White Queen. Unfortunately I was rather disappointed. Even overlooking Gregory's portrayal of the central character as utterly unlikeable, resulting in the reader having little or no empathy for her, the obsessive nature of her character lead to the writing becoming repetitive, tiresome and uncharacteristically boring from Gregory. I really didn't care one way or the other if I finished it or not. Such a shame. Save your money and stick to Gregory's other books!
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229 of 257 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Conned!, 18 Sep 2010
By 
Sue (Birkenhead, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I have always thought it rather rude to write a bad review of a novel that some poor author has struggled over for months, carefully crafting a story just for our entertainment - but in this case I'm going to make an exception. This was not just a bad novel - I could have coped with that - after all Ms Gregory has given me many hours of innocent pleasure. No - this was just lazy.

Having enjoyed 'The White Queen' I chose this one to take on holiday and settled down by the pool for a good long read. I had hoped for further insights into the shadowy figures behind the story of the Wars of the Roses. I had hoped that the story would be taken beyond 1485 - to the years when Margaret was the mother of the king. Instead we got the earlier novel regurgitated, from a slightly different angle. It even repeated many of the scenes. If I had to read about the witch's wind or the water goddess one more time I think I would have thrown the thing into the deep end. Catch that, Melusina! Even had I not already read the story of Elizabeth Woodville, I would have found the endless references to her beauty and her catching a husband by standing at a roadside, frustrating. The only insight into Margaret Beaufort we were given was that she was religious, had a rotten childhood and was a bit tedious. I think we got that after the first fifty pages - but we had to sit it out for another three hundred and thirty. Just as things were about to get interesting, when we might have discovered whether she ever did wield any influence over the court, the story ended. Presumably we will have to fork out for the third in the trilogy to find out what happened next. It might just be quicker, and no less insightful, to look it up in wikipaedia.

I don't doubt that Ms Gregory had done her research - but she made what little she discovered for 'The White Queen' go an awfully long way. And then she wrote a second novel using the same notes. I suppose she feels that we will happily buy anything she writes based on the success of her earlier work - and of course she is right. I feel conned.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Better than the White Queen - but that's not saying much!, 22 Sep 2010
By 
Looking at the 5 star reviews I'm wondering whether I've read a different book.
Most of the criticisms in my review of The White Queen apply to this second instalment in the series. This is slightly better - hence two stars.
The period covering the Wars of the Roses is one full of dramatic incident - plots, battles, betrayals, regicides - and to students of history or readers of historical novels they are very familiar. In contrast, the personal lives, thoughts and motivations of even the major historical figures are completely unknown. All fertile ground for the imagination of the historical novelist to run riot - alas, not here.
Margaret Beaufort is a fascinating historical figure, the true founder of the Tudor dynasty, and we know very little about her apart from the bare facts. It's likely that she was unable to have any more children after giving birth to the future Henry VII at 13 - at the time it was common for aristocratic children to be betrothed or even married at very young ages. But the marriages weren't usually consummated until several years later, and for a girl to have a child at 13 would have been unusual and brutal. This defining moment of Margaret's life is skipped through like the rest of the novel.
As in all her other novels, The Red Queen records the thoughts of the protagonist in first person, diary style. For an intimate portrait of a short period of time, as with The Other Boleyn Girl, this works well. But Gregory should really stop using this style for a wide-ranging, multi-themed historical novel because it simply doesn't work.
This book is like reading the whiny diary of a spoilt, rather dull girl with a tedious Joan of Arc obsession (why?), interspersed with descriptions of battles and other events cut out of a history text book. Where there is dialogue it is very clunky and poor. Try reading some of it out; these aren't real conversations. And to make these intriguing historical characters quite so dull is an absolute crime. She could have had a field day with Jasper Tudor and all three of Margaret's husbands.
Sorry to be so carping. As an avid reader of historical novels I would have loved to welcome a new series set in one of the most fascinating periods of British history. Once again, I refer you to Sharon Penman's The Sunne in Splendour for a historical novel in a completely different league. Am I accusing Philippa Gregory of lazy writing? Yes.
One final criticism - why do the book designers insist on featuring plastic-faced, expressionless 21st century supermodels in fancy dress on the covers of this series? Surely Margaret Beaufort had more character in her face than this? On second thoughts it's a perfect indication of the standard of work inside ...
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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HISTORY FROM MARGARET BEAUFORT'S POINT OF VIEW, 19 Aug 2010
By 
Eleni - See all my reviews
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This lovely book is the second in The Cousins War trilogy by Philippa Gregory and deals with the War of the Roses and the historical events and people that established the Tudor dynasty. As with the previous novel of the trilogy, The White Queen and the other historical novels by Gregory, history is seen from a woman's prospective in this case that of Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII and grandmother of King Henry VIII.

Gregory attempts to make this historical character, real and sympathetic, and again she does a great job presenting a well developed and convincing character. We see Margaret as she grows from an arogant, religious fanatic but still innocent child to a harsh, ambitious and cunning, strong woman, who influenced English history. I found the book very well written; I loved how the style changed as the narrator grows up, as well as the insightful, though sometimes inaccurate, prospective of the first person narrative.

What is fascinating in this trilogy is that as with the Tudor series novels, the same events are examined, seen with each book through the eyes of a different woman.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining, but we've been here before.., 27 Aug 2010
By 
John M "John M" (UK) - See all my reviews
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I enjoyed the subject matter and story telling in 'The White Queen' Volume 1 of this trilogy, and so looked forward to 'The Red Queen' with some anticipation. The history and events surrounding the War of the Roses is narrated this time by Margaret Beaufort, mother of the future Henry VII and leading woman in the House of Lancaster. The book starts with a young Margaret, a mere 12 year old girl, married off to Edmund Tudor the half brother of the then king Henry VI. Margaret is portrayed as an innocent child bride with a strong belief in god and her own sense of right and destiny, comparing herself to Joan of Arc, awaiting the voice of God upon bended knee. Margaret as a woman of the time seems to be powerless and a little more than a piece of property owned by first Edmund, and then following his death, by Henry Stafford and then Lord Stanley. Throughout her life and marriages she is portrayed as annoyingly pious, self-righteous, and single-minded in her belief that her son Henry is destined to be king. Whereas Elizabeth Woodville 'The White Queen' is portrayed as being complex, mysterious and a little ellusive, Margaret by contrast is a rather unsubtle, unlikeable and seemingly rather 2-dimensional character.
Although this is Volume 2, it actually takes the first third of the book to get to the point in time where Volume 1 begins. In fact they could easily be swapped or read in a different order with little problem. Both books finish at the same point in time after Bosworth, although I understand Margaret actually outlived her son and became for a short time regent to the young Henry VIII (who probably inherited some of his grandmother's personality!)
An enjoyable book, I think it is probably best read a little time after reading 'The White Queen', due to the obvious, and perhaps unsurprising, similarity of the two books resulting in a strong sense of deja vu.
I will certainly read the third installment, but hope for some different and fresher material!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Curate's Egg, 28 July 2013
This review is from: The Red Queen (Cousins War 2) (Paperback)
When asked by his host, a bishop, whether he was satisfied with his egg, the young clergyman came up with the ingenious reply, 'it is good in parts, my lord.' Something similar might be said of this book. I was drawn to read it after watching the quite awesomely bad TV series derived from a composite of this, 'The White Queen' and 'The Kingmaker's Daughter.' I wanted to see whether the character of Margaret Beaufort, mysteriously Welsh, horribly bland and acted by Amanda Hale as though she were trying to force something particularly large, hard and unpleasant through a random orifice at the same time, was a function of the book. I have to say - I don't think it is.

It is fortunately light on anachronisms - two that crop up, annoyingly, are syphilis and the ubiquitous yet immortal command to 'fire' rather than 'loose' arrows (perhaps bow strings were hot in those days)! It is, however, possessed of one major failing. The whole of Margaret Beaufort's life, from the moment she became pregnant at what even for the time was the very young ('dangerously young', to quote one biographer) age of twelve, is portrayed as being designed to place her son Henry on the English throne. This is not the case, and it is tedious to be constantly shaking my head at the inconsistencies it provokes in the character while Gregory tries to reconcile Margaret's emotions and ambitions (as ascribed by Gregory) to her actions (as portrayed by history). In fact, Margaret (as the descendant of an illegitimate son of John of Gaunt) and Edmund (as the possibly illegitimate son of Katherine de Valois) were both specifically and by name excluded from the Lancastrian line of succession precisely to avoid any of the dynastic wars that ironically ripped the kingdom apart when the Lancastrians' enemies found another claimant. So the suggestions that Henry was somehow 'the next heir' are not only wrong, they are ludicrous (even had Henry not been excluded, several of his cousins would have ranked ahead of him until they were killed off one by one). The next heir by common consent and royal acceptance was the man who finally deposed Henry VI - the Duke of York. (Indeed, as the descendant albeit on the distaff side of Lionel Duke of Clarence, a case could be made that the Dukes of York were the rightful kings ahead of the Lancastrian dynasty. But I digress.) There is not one shred of evidence that Margaret Beaufort thought otherwise until after the Battle of Tewkesbury when the legitimate line of John of Gaunt was wiped out and her nephews were progressively eliminated. Most of her actions are indeed more easily explicable if her loyalty to the exiled king, her cousin, rather than ambition for her son to be king, are viewed as the motive. It was also very jarring that by possibly the most implausible set of circular reasoning in the history of fiction, she was accused of the murder of the Princes in the Tower, although bets were even more clumsily hedged by hinting the men she hired to assassinate the Princes may not have done it. This is all of a piece with Gregory's strange determination to rehabilitate the brutal house of York, the last member of which almost past doubt murdered two of his three nephews to hang on to a throne he seized by brute force, by somehow further denigrating the equally brutal House of Lancaster. Why she should feel the need to do this remains obscure. The times are dramatic, violent and brutal enough without adding layers of clumsy intrigue.

What saves this from being a flop is that it is actually well written. I am not usually a fan of the present tense in novels. I find it gets in the way of the action and seriously hampers plot development. Moreover, I always have a nagging feeling that it is done not to write a good book but to show off the cleverness of the author - and for some obscure reason, talent is usually in inverse proportion to pretension. However, as a quasi 'stream of consciousness' trick in this novel, told mostly in the first person, it works. It draws you in, and allows you to feel in real time the emotions, hopes, dreams and fears of the character (that they are inaccurate and sensationalized is not an issue on this point) as well as her extreme piety and occasional visions (which are accurately described, even if the ad nauseam unnecessary references to Jeanne d'Arc, in an apparent bid to draw a very misleading comparison, are rather irritating). Even here, however, there are one or two problems. Gregory's determination to stay fashionably in the present causes all kinds of problems when she switches to the third person. There are ways and ways these sections could have been well-written in the present tense. Dreams or visions come to mind. They would have been admirable in the past tense (on three occasions, individual sentences flop into the past tense, I think by accident overlooked at the review/copyediting stage as the main part of the narration at all times is in the present tense). They do not work the way they are written. But fortunately, there are very few of them, and they occur mostly near the end, by which time you will want to finish the novel and find out how Gregory depicts the ending. If, of course, you do not know the ending, you were not paying attention in Year 8.

So the good curate's phrase is apposite. This is a novel that can be read and enjoyed. It is not desperately historically accurate (Gregory's claims to the contrary are as misguided as those of Dan Brown). It is a pity that she fet the need to sensationalize what must surely be one of the most sensational stories of them all - how a nobleman from the cadet branch of a discredited family rose to become the King of England. But it is a decent book. That gets it its three stars. The anachronisms and the lapses in style at the end lose it two. But it is a thousand times better than the TV series, and the character much more strongly (and better) drawn than the simpering cipher that comes across on the screen.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good but fiction, 15 Feb 2012
By 
Mrs. Avril Gilbert "horrorbuff" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Red Queen (Cousins War 2) (Paperback)
Philippa Gregory writes a decent book however there is more fiction and proparganda from the time than fact which is annoying.
In this book she seems to be using the shakespearian version of events in Richard III and the wars of the roses and I am suprised she has'nt called Richard cruckback (hunchback).She has used the withered arm senario from the description in shakepear's Richard III and propaganda of touched up paintings by the Tudor painters
This I found throughout the series as well as her Tudor courtseries ie. The other Bolyne girl ,The other Queen etc .... .
These books are a good read as long as you take them as fiction not fact
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 27 Jan 2011
By 
Valerie Thame (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
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Having read most of Phillipa Gregory's books and thoroughly enjoyed them this one was definitely disappointing and not up to her usual standard. I read to the end because of the author's reputation but the content was slow, the writing laboured and the story did not hold my attention.
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The Red Queen (Cousins War 2)
The Red Queen (Cousins War 2) by Philippa Gregory (Paperback - 1 April 2011)
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