Sunday, December 22, 2013

Roan Rose by Juliet Waldron

Roan Rose.  Juliet Waldron. Books We Love, Ltd. October 2013. 283 pp. 1122 KB. ASIN#: B00FKKAN98.

Roan Rose, born into a hard-working, harsh family, is expected to win her father a large dowry (large for their class, that is) but instead faces a different destiny.  She has been trained to be a healer and midwife at the basic skills level and thereby attracts the attention of the Countess of Warwick.  The Countess takes Rose to be a companion and healer to her daughter, Anne Neville, yes, the daughter to the noble Kingmaker.  The time span of Rose’s story takes the reader through the infamous War of the Roses historical period, the conflict covering every facet of the enmity between the Houses of Lancaster and York.  Anne, who worships her father, immediately adores Rose, thus leading to a life-long friendship with Rose, but not one without some period of strife. 

Richard of Gloucester, the brother of King Edward resides with the Neville family, a usual practice ensuring a royal son is properly trained for royal duties.  His closeness to Anne is obvious but perhaps never to be as royalty must marry royalty to insure political benefits for all concerned.  The endless conflicts between King Edward IV’s natural family versus the Woodville/Rivers family versus the Warwick clan, with each family’s numerous supporters and enemies, are the chief focus of this novel. 

However, there are twists and turns in this story unique to this author’s depiction. Ceremonies are described with minute detail as to appearance, decorations, flora and fauna, ceremonies, lists of notable families in attendance with all of their servants, etc. that are fascinating to follow.  Clarence, King Edward’s brother, is portrayed as the most despicable, evil, drunk and sadistic lout one could possibly imagine.  

Another unique quality is the way the author manages to convey Richard’s supposedly cruel transformation upon claiming the crown after Edward’s death, with the additional mystery of the missing Princes in the Tower and the reasons for betrayers to change sides out of sheer greed or survival.  The word “poignant” is almost an understatement throughout the entire novel.

Readers who love natural homeopathy techniques and medicines will love the extensive descriptions of what flowers and herbs are used for specific illnesses or problems in the 15th Century.

Rose, as well as a good friend, is also depicted as a romantic character in quite a surprising way, one not well-developed in other novels (although others write of Richard’s earlier liaison with Kate Haute).  Rose, Anne, Richard also focus on how their religious souls are in jeopardy as so much of what happens in this novel is sinful or heretical, with a touch of the “old ways” or pagan rituals and beliefs.

A surprising amount of the story concerns the cruel suffering Anne Neville experiences as she is shuffled around as a political tool.  The social issue of woman treated poorly is given fair treatment in these characters and the expediency of male will and actions thoroughly depicted and satirized.  Finally, the atmosphere of the times – rich v. poor status the main division – is clearly delineated but in a way that shows the attitudes of contentment and hatred regarding living, work, health and other conditions.

This reviewer absolutely loved this novel and shortage of space here prevents me from sharing more (plus we don’t want spoilers for those not familiar with this famous historical albeit fictional account), but suffice to say Juliet Waldron is one very talented writer and I look forward to reading more of her books.  Highly, highly recommended, delightful historical fiction!

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