1455, the seamier side of London: pestilence and threats of war (the uncivil kind) between the Houses of York and Lancaster with the throne of England at stake; thugs (called henchmen) who are ruthless cutthroats, yet charming and entertaining; Frenchmen bent on revenge – all this and more author Paul Doherty hurls at the reader in this most unusual, yet absorbing, retelling of the Wars of the Roses from the point of view of the ordinary man, who may occasionally become lawless.
Amadeus Sevigny, henchman for the Yorkists, is bent on getting rid of his Lancastrian counterpart, Simon Roseblood, owner of an influential London inn called the Roseblood, and an important London alderman. Sevigny holds a bitter grudge against Lancastrians since, as a child, his family was cut down before his eyes, and the Duke of York rescued and educated him. Simon Roseblood is for Lancaster because of family tradition, and having gained wealth and prestige through long association. Simon is able to thwart Sevigny’s plans and, when he would exact return violence towards the Yorkists, they go awry when the French terrorist group Le Corbeil intervenes, leaving dead crows as a calling card amongst the bodies. Le Corbeil adds an interesting twist to the novel, refreshing the reader’s memories of the horrific English occupation of France during the Hundred Years’ War – which had only recently ended.
In Roseblood the well-known history makers take a back seat to the common men and women of 15th-century London, providing a people’s recollection of the Wars of the Roses. This unique storytelling keeps pace with actual historical events, and the author takes the reader closer to the precipice of the thorny Rose wars. The violence can be very graphic in detail, but readers may not be put off by such descriptive narrative. Roseblood is a well-written historical novel with a fast-paced, action-driven plot. Highly recommended.