Jean Plaidy's The Reluctant Queen: The Story of Anne of York was passed on to me by one of my best friends along with A Rose Without a Thorn, which you may notice isn’t on this blog for reasons we will get to in a moment. I found the premise of this one interesting as the only thing I know about Richard III is what Shakespeare has told me. So I gave it a roll.
Lady Anne Neville, our protagonist, is a proviledged girl in Britain during the War of the Roses. Her father, Earl of Warwick, is the most powerful man in the country who is not king. He helped win the War and put King Edward on the throne. Edwards youngest brother, Richard, grew up as Warwick’s ward, where he and Anne are drawb together in mutual kinship and a spark is alighted. However, as times change and politics stir and alliances shift, young Anne is betrothed to the enemy of the throne, one who aims to take it back, in hopes that her father willl win his influence in return. Anne had no desires for the throne, and is devastated at the notion of marrying such a brute. Her sister, Isabel, who has married the other brother of the trio, the Duke of Clarence, Richard’s older brother, would happily be queen. When Anne’s fiancé dies in battle, she is free to marry Richard and live the quiet life they’ve always wanted.
But you didn’t think that would last, did you? Silly rabbit.
I was definitely intrigued by the first couple of chapters in this book, and I found myself wanting to keep digging in. I mentioned a previous book above, which I found to be melodramatic and stilted in terms of prose, so I didn’t post on it. This one, though, was interesting enough for me to push through. My general assessment is that it kept my attention until the middle, the. I found myself horribly bored until the last chapter again. I had the same issue with this book as I did with Rose — the story is way too bogged down in details that I found irrelevant to the story at hand. The history is interesting, but it comes across as staged when the dialogue is written here.
However, I will say that I’m not this series’ primary target. If you like historical fiction with a twist of romance, then this is your jam. I do not like romances as a genre (good for you if you do!) so this didn’t fulfill a need in me to see my characters beguiled. (I mean, it’s not like the story ends well. Anne dies while Richard is on the throne — no spoilers here, you had 400+ years to see the movie — and it’s not even like she does a dignified death.) I did appreciate the historical situating of the marriage between Anne and Richard. It has sparked in me some interest to poke more into their situation and what historical records exist of their marriage.