March 19, 2010

Review of "The Stolen Crown" by Susan Higginbotham

Synopsis:  When six-year-old Kate Woodville’s beautiful sister Elizabeth makes a shocking—and secret—marriage to King Edward IV in 1464, Kate and her large family are whisked to the king’s court. Soon a bedazzled Kate becomes one of the greatest ladies in the land when she marries young Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. But Kate’s fairy-tale existence as a duchess is shattered when the ongoing conflict between the houses of Lancaster and York engulfs the Woodville family.

As Edward IV fights to keep his crown, Harry’s relatives become hopelessly divided between Lancaster and York. Forced constantly to struggle with his own allegiances, Harry faces his defining moment when his dear friend Richard, Duke of Gloucester, determines to seize the throne for himself as Richard III. With lives in jeopardy and nothing less than a dynasty at stake, Harry’s loyalties—and his conscience—will be put to the ultimate test.

As a relatively recent historical fiction reader, I had yet to read anything by Susan Higginbotham but had read rave reviews and energetic exclamations from other bloggers.  Having finished my first Higginbotham novel, I completely understand it.  In short, I LOVED The Stolen Crown

The Tudor period has been revitalized with the rash of historical fiction releases and the success of Showtime's The TudorsThe Stolen Crown takes place during the York/Lancaster reign, immediately prior to Henry Tudor's reign (father of the infamous Henry VIII).  I didn't know much about this period, nor about Richard III.  What I did learn was fascinating, between his relatively short reign and how he managed to acquire the crown (hence, the title of this splendid book). 

Ms. Higginbotham took very much supporting characters to this slice of British history, using Henry ("Harry") Stafford, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham and his wife, Katherine ("Kate") Woodville, as narrators of this complex story, rather than one of the kings themselves.  And it works, many times over. 

I was immediately drawn into the story, thanks in equal parts to Ms. Higginbotham's descriptive and warm writing and the sympathetic and engaging Kate and Harry.  In my mind, historical fiction novels can be a tricky business.  So much research is necessary to go into them and sometimes the story itself can end up as dry as the proverbial Thanksgiving turkey.  Not a bad thing, necessarily, but if you want a good, enriching story to go with your history, you might want more than just history.  Ms. Higginbotham has no worries here.  The story is rich with both history and characterization.  The 15th century comes alive in the pages of this book and even if you know the story and the outcome, it's an incredible read and one I encourage you to make.   Personally, I did not know all of the history surrounding these events but reading Ms. Higginbotham's tale sent me to do some online researching about the real people. 

Fans of historical fiction, have no worries.  You should be more than pleased with The Stolen Crown.  For those readers on the fence about the genre, this book may sway you into fandom territory.  The Stolen Crown is not a bodice-ripper; while there is sex, it is mentioned more in passing than in exquisite (or excruciating) detail.  There may be a few objectionable words here and there but if you take issue with that, the richness of the story will probably render the words a moot point. 

Is there anything about The Stolen Crown I didn't care for?  Honestly, no.  I enjoyed all the characters, even the ones you love to hate.  I loved the richness of the characters, the way they were fully developed and I enjoyed the vivid descriptions of 15th century England.  My time spent with Harry Stafford, Kate Woodville and a King of England here and there was absolutely worth every minute.  Susan Higginbotham is firmly ensconced on my list of "must read" authors. 

The Stolen Crown is avaiable for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble

For further information about Susan Higginbotham please visit her website HERE

If you would like a chance to win your own copy of The Stolen Crown, please click HERE.  The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on March 19 (that's TODAY!). 

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.


Susan Higginbotham said...

Thanks for the review, Lori!

Tales of Whimsy said...

Great review :)

Ann Elle Altman said...

I love the cover and it sounds like a lovely historical book. RIght up my alley.


Lisa said...

This one really intrigues me; it's a part of history I'm not very familiar with.