The first book in this two-part series focused on Richard, Duke of Gloucester before he became Richard III, and told the tale as it was witnessed by his mistress and the court fool. (See my review, here.) But now Edward IV is dead and the main factions at court are trying to survive after the only man who could keep the peace between them is gone.
For this first part of the tale we have as our guide Mark Archer (who we met briefly in book 1). He is Richard’s sworn man and friend; an archer with exceptionally good eyesight. Through his testimony we are taken through the troublesome time between Edward IV’s death to the fateful battle at Bosworth. Mark Archer is a likeable character who shows how devious political wranglings could be, and how the most innocent actions could be used to cover up the not-so-innocent. But most of all, he serves to show us what kind of a king Richard might have been.
Then, for the second part of the book, we go back to hear how the story concludes from the point of view of Richard’s one-time mistress, who we only ever know as the Nut-Brown Maid. Her tale is a poignant one – she is at the mercy of circumstance, and only learns what happens, for the most part, months later, so far removed is she now from the court. We learn what has occurred in her small world since we last heard from her in The Flowering of the Rose, and then on, past the battle at Bosworth and into the beginnings of Tudor England. Her story is moving, and the love she bore for Richard gives her the strength and the courage to face danger.
It is a very sympathetic and likeable Richard we meet in the course of these books, and I for one am glad. He makes for a very good, very interesting central character and it would have been easy for the author to go along with the much maligned figure many are familiar with.
One of my favourite characters (from either book) had to be the young girl, Edyth. But it is the emotive, heartbreaking tale told by the Nut-Brown Maid that really captured my interest, and even on occasion, brought tears to my eyes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, along with the first, The Flowering of the Rose, and I can’t recommend either highly enough. A great piece of historical fiction and fluid storytelling.