Blood and Roses

Written by Catherine Hokin
Review by Ann Northfield

Beginning at the start of the Wars of the Roses, Blood and Roses focuses on and is in part narrated by Margaret of Anjou, unfortunate wife of Henry VI. It is a novel of the interior mind and in many ways reflects the experiences of women, even Queens, at that time. The action, battles and most negotiations and deals all occur offstage. The reader learns the news passively along with Margaret; something is announced by messenger or revealed by gossip or by a visitor, and we see her reaction to the news through an interior monologue in her head, written in italics to differentiate it from the narrative text.

It may not be the most thrilling of approaches, but it is interesting to see how Margaret copes with what medieval life throws at her. A family tree of the York and Lancaster sides plus a list of characters and their allegiances would have been helpful to keep events clearer. The switches of allegiance are bewildering at times and show what a chaotic world it must have been to try to win or keep power. The reader develops empathy with Margaret’s plight. She is a victim of her circumstances, married to a man who would have been better fitted to be a monk, and this has obvious implications for a foreign Queen whose main role is to fill the royal cradle.