Red Rose, White Rose

Written by Joanna Hickson
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Hickson’s newest novel, Red Rose, White Rose, is the story of Cicely Neville, daughter of the powerful Earl of Westmorland, a staunch Lancastrian who consolidates power by negotiating brilliant marriages for his children. His last betrothal before he dies is between his nine-year-old daughter, Cicely, and his ward, Richard, Duke of York.

Born of Lancaster and married to York, the courageous Cicely must treat a path through one of the most unstable eras in English history, the Wars of the Roses. Hickson is brave, herself, for attempting to tell such an ambitious story. The cast of characters is unwieldy and made even more difficult because so many of the names are the same; this makes rendering a clear story challenging. Unfortunately, Hickson’s tale could use more clarity.

Told from the view point of Cicely and her bastard half-brother, Cuthbert, the story unfolds as Cicely is kidnapped and held hostage by members of her own family who are angered over the distribution of property after her father’s death. Her own mother and brothers hesitate to rescue her and she must use her feminine wiles to escape. This act will haunt her through the remainder of the story.

Perhaps readers with a masterful knowledge of 15th-century England will be able to negotiate the historical maze of Lancaster and York and the role of the Neville family in the Wars of the Roses.