She has the formula down so perfectly — with enough factual history, everyday detail about medieval life, and winning dialog to make her characters completely believable.
I picked up this book because, although I’ve read a lot about the Wars of the Roses, I didn’t know much about Margaret of York, sister to England’s king Edward IV. Margaret is married off to the Duke of Burgundy to form a political alliance for her brother.
It’s not a very happy marriage but through Margaret’s life in Burgundy we get to learn a bit of the history of that dukedom (that only lasted about a century), as well as witness the ongoing politics going on back in England between Edward IV, his brother the George, Duke of Clarence, their cousin Richard Neville the Kingmaker, and Margaret of Anjou, wife of rival Lancaster king, Henry VI. King Louis XI of France is also in the mix.
Smith’s portrays Margaret as smart, learned, and politically astute in an era when women were usually relegated to the background. Her mind earns her the admiration of both her advisors and the people she helps govern.
Some aspects of the novel are the invention of the author, as the reader learns in the author’s Afterword. But don’t read that Afterword until you finish the novel. First, treat yourself to Smith’s combination of fiction and fact. Then, you can find out which parts are made up.
You may also be interested in my reviews of other wonderful historical novels by Anne Easter Smith: