Pale Rose of England by Sandra Worth
Author: Sandra Worth
Genre: Fiction (Historical / late 15th century English)
Publisher/Publication Date: Berkley Publishing Group (2/1/2011)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Rating: Love loved.
Did I finish?: Yes - you couldn't stop me!
One-sentence summary: The loves and losses of 15th century Scottish noblewoman, Catherine Gordon.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction
Do I like the cover?: YES! It's super striking! It's a coincidence, I presume, but the image is William Frederick Yeames's imagining of Amy (Robsart) Dudley, a woman meaningful to Elizabeth I, the granddaughter of this novel's 'villain', Henry VII.
I'm reminded of...: Susan Holloway Scott, Anya Seton, Sandra Gulland.
First line: Pain washed over Catherine in waves of unrelenting agony.
Did... I wish Worth was less historically accurate at times?: YES. Worth had me invested by the first chapter and I was just willing history to capitulate to Catherine and Richard's happiness.
Did... I develop a crush on Richard Plantagenet/Perkin Warbeck?: YES. As a rule, royals don't usually do it for me but Worth's Richard was romantically tragic in such a delicious way!
Did... I like Catherine?: YES. That might seem a weird question, but I often find preternaturally gorgeous heroine a pill, their beauty being their primary reason for anyone liking them, but in this case, Worth made a vibrant heroine out of Catherine Gordon.
Why did I get this book?: Honestly, the cover totally grabbed me, and by the time I finished reading the plot summary, I knew I had to have it!
Review: This is the kind of historical novel that reminds me why I love the genre. It's meaty, it's exciting, it's engrossing, it's romantic, it's chilling, and it's absolutely un-put-down-able. This era (reign of Henry VII) is one I'm wholly unfamiliar with but Worth sets up the story and characters so well, I didn't find myself lost or confused or in need of an encyclopedia.
The novel tells the story of Catherine Gordon, a Scottish noblewoman who is married to the man said to be the true King of England, Richard Plantagenet/Perkin Warbeck, even though he is branded an imposter by the reigning monarch, Henry VII. The plot covered in this novel is exciting enough, but I found Worth's characters to be so interesting and real, I cared about all of them -- even the horrible Henry VII.
The romantic, clearly loving marriage between Catherine and Richard anchored the story for me; in an era when (I imagine) love matches were rare, Worth's depiction of these two made me fall in love with them -- and made me deeply invested in the survival of their marriage and family. At many times, I wished Worth would just lie and give me a few chapters of their bucolic happiness in a country estate, I liked them so much. This novel, however, encompasses so much more than just their marriage, and is really about Catherine Gordon -- not the Tudors nor Perkin Warbeck.
Worth's skill as an author really shows in the development of Catherine. I imagine it must be challenging to imagining a historical figure wholly and envision why they responded or acted the way they did in a way that remains true to history and true to the author's conception of them. Worth's Catherine is a complicated woman who responds to the circumstances around her and does what she deems most moral and true to herself, and I found I genuinely liked her (even if I didn't agree with her opinions or life choices).
I can't recommend this novel enough -- I just loved it and resented having to work rather than read! And, happily, Worth has published five other books for me to go back and devour while I wait for her newest!
**** **** ***
Come back on April 21st for a guest post from the author, Sandra Worth, and a chance to win a copy of Pale Rose of England.