Oh Susan, how do we love thee?

A Reader's Respite could sit here and count the ways, but we'd be here forever when it comes to historical fiction and author Susan Higginbotham.  She consistently turns out first-rate historical fiction and her newest release, The Stolen Crown, is simply superb.

The Stolen Crown is the riveting story of Katherine Woodville and her infamous marriage to Henry Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham.  Armed with a cast of historical figures that are enough to make the most jaded historical fiction fan shiver with joy, this novel is a veritable treasure trove of 15th-century nobility in England.

For those of you unfamiliar with the basics of this little scandal, allow us to give you The Reader's Respite Version (kind of like The Reader's Digest Version, but better)....

Elizabeth Woodville was the non-royal commoner that England's King Edward IV developed a serious case of the hots for and to everyone's shock, in 1464, he actually married her.  This irked a lot of important people because,

  1. Kings were supposed to make strategic marriages of state to further the interests of their country; and
  2. Elizabeth wasn't averse to sweet-talking the King into making her own family very, very rich.

Personally, A Reader's Respite has always applauded ol' Liz for not giving away the milk for free, if you know what we mean.  But we digress.....

Liz made it a point of securing a bunch of advantageous marriages for her siblings (and there were a passel of them).  One of the more scandalous matches she made was for her young sister, Katherine Woodville.  Liz managed to marry Kate off to the fabulously wealthy Henry Stafford, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham.

 Harry, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, while his head was still connected to his body.

The few contemporary sources we have to go on these days generally relate that Harry didn't like his new bride because she was, socially speaking, so far below him (snobby, wasn't he?) and for a long time it was commonly thought that Kate was years and years older than Harry.  Turns out, this wasn't true and both were still children at the time of their marriage. And if Harry didn't care for his bride, he wasn't averse to sharing her bed:  they had five children together.

Harry went on to play a significant role in British history:  he is one of the prime suspects for the murder of Edward IV's two young boys (the famous Princes in the Tower) and eventually would lose his head for trying to take the English Crown for himself.  It's hard not to be intrigued by him.

 Who killed the Princes?

Higginbotham has, once again, taken page out of British history and brought it to life before our very eyes.  She excels at taking known history and rendering it into riveting fiction.  Her characters are thoughtful, the plot moves along at a near-perfect pace, and her knowledge of the time period is impressive.  At no point does she allow history to become boring.

There is an impressive list of characters to help you keep track of who's who (you'll need it!) and a very impressive author's note when all is said and done.  Both are very much appreciated by this historical fiction afficianado. 

Higginbotham  this is what separates the good from the "meh" historical fiction authors:  to write within the confines of known history.  After all, any writer could just make up their own history and hide behind the fiction label.  Many, in fact, do.  This doesn't make them terrible writers, but historical fiction authors are generally held to a higher standard.

A good historical fiction author writes a fabulous novel in spite of historical limitations.  Not an easy task.  So hats off to Susan Higginbotham and others of her tier who consistently write historical fiction for the history lover.

Dear Mr. FTC Man,

This book magically appeared on our doorstep.  And if Sourcebooks hadn't gifted it to us, A Reader's Respite would have bought it the day it hit the shelves.  Since this particular author is one of our favorites, the book has become a part of our permanent collection and as such, you'll have to pry it out of our cold, dead hands.  Good luck with that.

Most sincerely,

A Reader's Respite

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