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"Love drew her heart toward him, and shame drover her eyes away." Such are the words shared by Tristan and Iseult in a volume treasured by King Richard of Gloucester and Elizabeth of York, the daughter of King Edward V, Richard's brother. Simple, clear words perhaps but in reality portraying a mesmerizing, complex life of a woman seeking her own role in history!
The story begins with understanding the totally dissimilar nature of Elizabeth's parents, her life intertwined with a loving but unwise father, King Edward, and her overbearingly meddling mother, Bess Woodville, a notorious woman feared by everyone in the kingdom. The latter is a woman like so many other tyrants, possessing an inordinate amount of greed stemming from fear of being deposed and having to return to an insignificant, impoverished status. The description sounds historically objective, but Sandra Worth fully captures the essence of Elizabeth's confused plight in the middle of this calculating shrew who calls herself mother and siblings who eventually will disappear or turn against Elizabeth for a very long time. Who will prevail and what personality will evolve from such chaotic parenting? Imagine such a childhood!
Bess Woodville's plans following the death of King Edward are thwarted by Richard seizing the throne as Protector and then King, and all seems well for a while as he and his beloved Queen Anne rule England. Justice becomes the norm rather than the exception, until Richard's rivals begin to make war to seize the Crown. Times of joy and tragedy follow the royal couple. Will Richard's mercy free Bess and allow Elizabeth a place in his court? For there we read of the intimate bond between this King and Queen about to be tested in the furnace of adversity.
During this time, Elizabeth realizes her mother's lies have distorted the truth. As Elizabeth begins to see Richard with new eyes, how will she be treated by the Queen and by Richard who previously sees Elizabeth only as a despised Woodville?
Destiny seemingly has other plans as Henry VII invades England and Elizabeth agrees to marry the usurper, a union tortured again, this time by Henry's own mother, Margaret Beaufort, a woman even more diabolical than Elizabeth's own mother. Will Elizabeth find honor or regret in her choice made for what she believes is England's good? What can she do against her mother-in-law's influence over her two very different sons, Arthur and Henry?
Again, the author allows clarity and accuracy to prevail as she presents Elizabeth's debacle and evolution over years. Elizabeth of York's account opens a window for the reader to view the benign and treacherous court dialogues, romances and planned unions, as well as important plans and actions of those who serve the Crown for different reasons. Questions regarding the disappearance of Elizabeth's brothers and the identity of the mysterious Pretender haunt Elizabeth through the remainder of her life. Were there other unseen, unrealized possibilities?
Sandra Worth's writing elicits confusing, loving and hateful thoughts, feelings and responses resulting from the reader's total immersion in these carefully crafted historical characters' lives, reactions paralleling Elizabeth's own. The author's creative writing skills are honed with excellent research and insight into personality.
Ms. Worth, superbly done! Readers, prepare yourself for an amazing, wonderful read herein as you sit down to enjoy the life of Good Elizabeth, the first Tudor Queen!
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on December 6, 2008