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"I went to bed early one night...tired and preoccupied with musings about love. then - was it a vision, a dream? - Love himself suddenly appeared before me, taking the heart from my breast and handing it to Desire..." An apt quote bespeaks the essence of a tale, in this case the story of the uniquely passionate, tender and forbearing love between Isobel Ingoldesthorpe and John Neville, the Yorkist. Their love endures through the thorny historical events of fifteen years commonly known as the War of the Roses.
Sandra Worth has once again captured the tornado-whirling shifts of loyalty as England watches two mad women change the course of history, Marguerite d'Anjou - Henry VI's French queen - and later Elizabeth Woodville - Edward IV's beautiful wife. The former believes she is trying to bring peace to her simple, holy husband's land, the latter spouse flourishes by feeding years of imagined hurtful memories with unmitigated revenge. Their sheer, unadulterated terror will destroy England's aristocracy, including the famed kingmaker, Warwick, John Neville's brother. John himself will rise to the heights of power and lose almost all of it.
Isobel is a feisty, intelligent and compassionate character whose observations have the same effect on the reader that she experiences. When one thinks that cruelty, savagery and insanity have reached their limit, another betrayal with its accompanying horrors or unexpected deaths arises to leave Isobel and all of England reeling with shock.
When it seems that the common people are suffering the most from their leaders' cruelty and blood lust, it is Isobel who cares enough to help them survive and believe in something higher. Indeed Isobel will audaciously intervene in two hair-raising scenes to plead for mercy for two central characters. Isobel and John's intimate love is the glue holding together a world in which England's rulers precociously attempt to shape its history.
Ms. Worth's singular talent lies in the masterful way she crafts plot and deftly presents an in depth, diverse set of historical characters whom the reader comes to deeply care about. Congratulations, Sandra Worth! Lady of the Roses is an unparalleled, beautiful, dire and memorable keeper in the top ranks of historical novels! What a treat!
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on January 23, 2008