The Golden Widows

Written by Isolde Martyn
Review by Elizabeth Jane Corbett

In the aftermath of the second battle of St Albans, two young noblewomen find themselves widowed. One is Katherine Neville, widow of the callow and unfaithful youth William Bonville. Despite bearing a daughter, she has never been aroused in the marriage bed. The other, Elysabeth Woodville, is the widow of the much loved John Grey. After her husband’s death, she finds herself bereft and on the losing side. As Katherine seeks to raise her daughter, she is haunted by her husband’s infidelity. When her cousin, King Edward, offers her in marriage to the handsome Lord Hastings, she is wary of being humiliated a second time. Elysabeth, on the other hand, is beautiful but landless. Ejected from her manor, and forced to live under the roof of her parents, she plots to win back her son’s inheritance, little realising the ploy will also bring her a crown.

This densely researched historical romance, set between 1461 and 1464 against the turbulent backdrop of the War of the Roses, is told in the alternating third-person points of view of its female protagonists. In terms of history, the households, foods and customs, women’s clothing, travel and legal entitlements are all produced in loving detail. The battles and their consequences are also well described – though at a distance, befitting the purposes of the narrative. Due to the necessary set up and its parallel storylines, the romances are slower to get started than in the average Harlequin novel (though Martyn gives her romance readers some flirtation and an ill-conceived proposal to spark their interest). I also found the relationship between Katherine and Lord Hastings more satisfying than that of Elizabeth and the King. But if you like your history spiced with handsome men, feisty heroines, strong sexual attraction, witty repartees, lavish costumes, impossible dilemmas and ultimately love and marriage, The Golden Widows is the book for you.