The Reluctant Queen

Written by Jean Plaidy
Review by Susanne Dunlap

Richard III is possibly the most maligned of English kings. If for no other reason than that, Jean Plaidy’s alternate interpretation of his story through the eyes of Anne of York should be required reading.

The novel begins with the young Anne growing up in her father’s castle in York, where Edward, the heir to the English throne, and his younger brothers, Richard and Henry, come to be groomed as warriors. She is drawn to the weak and sickly Richard, and they become childhood friends. Their friendship endures, despite separation and estrangement and a complete shift of loyalties.

Unlike Shakespeare’s version of the story, Richard does not ultimately have to use his wiles to persuade Anne to wed him: she is predisposed because of their early history and her long-cherished inclination—which for a modern reader makes their marriage plausible. In addition, Plaidy handles the thorny problem of the death of the princes in the tower with realistic depth and a true grasp of human nature.

All in all, Plaidy makes the nearly incomprehensible interweavings of Lancastrian and Yorkist factions reasonably easy to follow. Perhaps that is in part due to her deceptively simple writing style. In the case of such an involved piece of history, the repetitions and reuse of images serves to anchor rather than dull the story.

And, I must admit, the 450 pages went by very quickly. All Plaidy fans will be grateful for this quality paperback reprint of her novel.