The Rose of York: Fall from Grace

Written by Sandra Worth
Review by Margaret Barr

While Worth’s ambitious novel offers a sympathetic representation of King Richard the Third, she also depicts him as humanly flawed and, at times, deeply neurotic. Hemmed in by treachery, haunted by loss, he strives to secure his family’s Yorkist claim to England’s throne, yet at every turn finds himself thwarted by bad luck or bad decisions.

The author’s research impresses, as does her passion for the era. Her characters’ dialogue, at times, is heavy with exposition, and occasionally they fail to emerge from their well-wrought setting as dynamic and realistic individuals. Queen Anne’s selfless devotion to her misunderstood husband, however admirable, weakens her as much as her physical frailties. By contrast, Richard’s enemies – those who appear on the page and those lurking in the background – are more vital and interesting. Bess Woodville, the widowed queen, and Margaret Beaufort, scheming to place her son Henry Tudor on the throne, come to life in a way that anemic Anne and Richard’s niece, Elizabeth, whom he dare not wed after his Queen’s demise, do not.

The tortured hero of the piece does have the power of engaging the reader. But at times he becomes so hopelessly mired in woe, so gripped by husbandly concern, that his heroism is lessened. The novel’s pace, prescribed by actual events, picks up nearer the end. As Richard is propelled towards his destiny, the action and the suspense – even for those familiar with the facts – grows ever more compelling. Worth manages her confrontation and battle scenes far more skillfully and effectively than the earlier repetitive husband-and-wife encounters that demonstrate Richard’s softer side.

This is an admirable and well-written work, worthy of attention. It should be well-received by fans of historically accurate fiction, ardent Ricardians, and those specifically interested in the Wars of the Roses.