The Queen of Lost Hopes: The Story of Margaret of Anjou by Susan Higginbotham
Publication Date: January 2011
Genre: Historical Fiction
(Received for review from Sourcebooks)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Borderes, IndieBound
If you live in Morehead, KY or the surrounding area:
Purchase from our local independent bookseller: CoffeeTree Books
Borrow from our local library: The Rowan County Public Library
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Excerpt from The Queen of Lost Hopes
Synopsis (Susan Higginbotham's Website):
What would happen if the king suddenly went mad? What would his queen do? Would she make the same mistakes I did or would she learn from mine?
When fifteen-year-old Margaret of Anjou journeys from France to marry England's Henry VI, she hopes that her wedding will mean a lasting peace between England and France. Instead, England's losses of French territory infuriate the people, resulting in the horrific murder of Margaret's first friend in England, William de la Pole.
Pregnant at last after eight years of marriage, Margaret places her hopes in her coming child. Then the worst happens: the gentle, ineffectual Henry suddenly goes mad and cannot even recognize his longed-for son. As feuding nobles rush to exploit the situation, Margaret determines to protect the rights of her husband and her child.
Undaunted by exile, poverty, danger, and the slanders of her enemies, Margaret remains loyal to her cause even as those around her falter in their allegiances. For the man and the boy she loves best, she will risk everything - her reputation, her safety, and the future of England itself.
Susan Higginbotham's books are a historical fiction lover's gold mine. The Queen of Last Hopes tells the story of the "mother" of the house of Lancaster, Margaret of Anjou. Higginbotham is known for impeccable research and that is certainly the case with this book. The author takes a character that has long been vilified and portrayed as a domineering and harsh woman, and turns her into a real woman. Someone who has hopes, dreams, fears, and regrets as any of us do.
Margaret of Anjou came to England to marry Henry VI when she was very young. She was a peace offering of sorts, that was to ensure peace between France and England. Unfortunately, things didn't turn out quite the way she had expected. She quickly came to love the very gentle, Henry VI, who was undoubtedly a very religious man, but not a strong King. Henry's enemies quickly became Margaret's enemies, blaming her for everything from the return of French territory to the inability to produce an heir.
After eight years Margaret conceives and bears a son, who she named Edward. Under heavy duress, King Henry VI slips into madness and is never quite the same again, leaving most of the rule of the country in Margaret's hands. Margaret is accused of everything from adultery to trying to pass off another man's child as heir to the throne, by the Yorkist faction who continues to try to take over England. Margaret fights like a lioness to protect the rights of her husband and her son, but one dismal failure after another puts her life and her country in jeopardy.
Historical fiction has a way of bringing little known characters to the forefront and giving us possibilities about who they were and what their story could have been. Higginbotham takes a different tack with this one. Margaret of Anjou is a prominent historical figure who has taken a severe beating by historians. Her determination and her strong will make her come across as domineering and a very harsh and hard woman. Higginbotham shows us a very different side to Queen Margaret.
She shows us Margaret as a woman, as someone who is just like everyone else, who is motivated by love and loyalty. As readers we learn the reasons why Margaret was the way she was. I think her single mindedness in regard to King Henry VI and her son Edward of Lancaster was in the spirit of a woman who had to protect her own. She would stop at nothing to provide for her son the kind of life that was due to him by his linage and in doing so, she was going against the tide.
Higginbotham does an excellent job of giving the reader a real sense of the kind of woman, Margaret was; fiercely loyal, determined and caring. Margaret's character was a joy to read, despite her tragic circumstances. As a reader I caught myself wishing that history would re-write itself and give Margaret and Henry a happy ending, but it wasn't to be. But if a book can make you feel that way, it's really saying something about the author and the writing of the book.
I would recommend this book to historical fiction lovers, especially those interested in British history. It's an excellent portrayal of a woman we thought we knew, but maybe we didn't. There is of course some romance in the book with Henry VI and Margaret's relationship as well as Margaret's love for the Duke of Sommerset, Henry Beaufort, that lovers of historical romance will enjoy as well. The book has a good pace and I felt it brought everything to it's conclusion in a timely manner. It wasn't drawn out or too lengthy as some historical fiction titles tend to be.
The Queen of Lost Hopes is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Susan Higginbotham's meticulously researched historical fiction brought to life through heartfelt writing delights readers. Higginbotham runs her own historical fiction/history blog and is a contributor to the blog, "Yesterday Revisited." She has worked an an editor, and an attorney and lives in Apex, North Carolina with her family.