Lady of the Roses

Written by Sandra Worth
Review by Phyllis T. Smith

In this novel, we see the War of the Roses through the eyes of Isobel, the wife of Sir John Neville, brother of Warwick the Kingmaker. A ward of the Lancastrian queen Marguerite, she falls in love with John, though he is a Yorkist. Against all odds, they manage to marry. But as friends turn into enemies and switch back again, and even close family ties prove untrustworthy, their lives are tempest-tossed.

Fans of Sandra Worth’s award-winning Richard III trilogy, in which John and Isobel were minor characters, will relish this book. Richard and his beloved wife Anne make cameo appearances, and there is a deep affinity between Richard and John Neville. Worth sees them both as uncommonly decent men, living in a remarkably savage time. Because of the greed and power-seeking of others, John is again and again pulled in two directions by competing loyalties. Torn between his brother and his king, he grows in moral stature as he grapples with a situation in which there is simply no good choice.

The novel is entirely written in first person from Isobel’s point of view, and she is a most perceptive and engaging witness to history. Isobel and John’s love story, and sixteen years of English history, culminating in the Battle of Barnet, are skillfully interwoven. Worth paints vivid, up-close portraits of many historical figures, among them Queen Marguerite, Elizabeth Woodville, and John Tiptoft, Isobel’s pious uncle, who is transformed by war into the Butcher of England. While it’s possible to differ with Worth’s take on certain people and events, her work rests on a firm foundation of historical accuracy. Both historical romance fans and those who are fascinated by this era will find much here to enjoy.