Friday, September 3, 2010

Review & Giveaway: The Red Queen: The Cousins' War, Book Two by Philippa Gregory

A question for all of you: can you really enjoy a book if you don't like the protagonist?

The Red Queen is Philippa Gregory's second book in The Cousins' War series. The first was The White Queen , which was told from Elizabeth Woodville's point of view (see my review from about a year ago). Elizabeth is one of the most hated English queens, but in The White Queen she gained my sympathy and some of my understanding.

In this one, we get the story of Margaret Beaufort Stanley, mother of Henry Tudor and creator of the Tudor line, told from her point of view. Born into the powerful Lancaster family, Margaret is used as a pawn to further her family's political and dynastic endeavors. She is a pious girl who wants nothing more than to serve God, or so she claims. Her most proud achievement is her "saint's knees," red and calloused from kneeling for hours in prayer where she has visions and imagines herself to be Joan of Arc.

Once married and mother of the first Tudor, Henry, Margaret becomes singularly obsessed with his becoming king of England. Her schemes and plotting know no bounds, she doesn't care who she tramples on the way. Worst of all, she does it all in the name of God:

"You want power, Margaret, power and wealth; and so do I. Nothing matters as much as this to either of us, and we will sacrifice anything for it."

"I am guided by God!" I protest.

"Yes, because you think God wants your son to be King of England. I don't think your God has ever advised you otherwise. You hear only what you want. He only ever commands your preferences."

I sway as if he has hit me. "How dare you! I have lived my life in His service!"

"He always tells you to strive for power and wealth. Are you quite sure it is not your own voice that you hear, speaking through the earthquake, wind, and fire?"

Margaret Beaufort

She was so insufferable that I was wishing that the entire history of England could be changed just to thwart her. But the thing is, the author could not really have written this book any other way. Margaret was the way she was (doesn't it look like she is sucking on a lemon?), she was not likable. So it is no surprise when we don't. It does say something about Philippa Gregory that she would set out to write a novel based on a character who has so few redeeming qualities.

This is not my favorite Philippa Gregory book. (Come to think of it, none of her more recent books are among my favorites, though I always enjoy them.) But I understand why she wrote it and appreciate where it fits into the network of her other novels. For die hard Philippa Gregory fans and historical fiction readers in general, The Red Queen is a must read. As to whether or not a book can be enjoyed if you don't like the protagonist, I think the answer must be yes. Where would we be without characters we love to hate?

The Red Queen is published by Touchstone. ISBN 978-1-4165-6372-3.
For more information about the author and all of her books, please visit her website.

Check out some other reviews!

Thanks to the generous publishers, I have one brand-spanking-new hardback copy (it's a first edition, too!) to give away. For one entry just leave me your email address in the comments with your favorite Philippa Gregory title. If you have never read a PG book then tell me why you would like to start with this one. If you would like extra entries there are instructions below. Giveaway open through midnight eastern time on September 17.. The winners will be drawn at random and must have a US mailing address.

+2 Follow this blog any way you choose (Google, Feedburner, etc) and leave a comment...if you already do, include that in your comment
+2 Tweet or blog this giveaway and leave me a comment to let me know that you did

Good luck everyone, thank you for visiting and entering!


bermudaonion said...

I've never read any of Gregory's work, but I'd like too! We went out to dinner with 3 other couples tonight and got to talking about books and 1 woman was raving over Gregory's work. milou2ster(at)

Daphne said...

Margaret's definately not very likeable but her last two husbands are a hoot!! I think a book can still be good if the protagonist is unlikeable as long as the story is interesting and it is well written. No need to enter me in the giveaway (I already have a copy).

Unknown said...

Hmmm.... my favorite? I would have to say "The Queens Fool." It was the first book of hers that I read, which made me really start to enjoy historical fiction again. egdeedy(at)gmail(dot)com

Icedream said...

I love Gregory's books. My favorite so far has been The Other Boleyn Girl. I am looking forward to reading The Red Queen, thanks for the chance.

+2 old follower
+2 tweeted

waitmantwillie at hotmail dot com

BurtonReview said...

I enjoyed most of Gregory's books, this one included. Margaret was easy to hate, but knowing that she succeeded in the long run helped me to admire her.

Mystica said...

Gregory's historical fiction is very good but did you know she writes novels as well! Dont put my name in the box as I am overseas - this story sounds very good despite Margaret's unlikeable character!!!

Shannon said...

My favorite has to be The Other Boleyn Girl. I've read a few of her other books, but I just didn't enjoy them as much.

+2 old follower

tiredwkids at live dot com

whoizme8 said...

Like to read the book.

Unknown said...

I think that my favorite PG book is The Constant Princess - I really loved how she wrote the relationship between Catherine and Arthur. But it was The Other Boleyn Girl that really got me into the genre.

I would love to be entered for the giveaway please. dolleygurl[at]hotmail[dot]com.

I am a follower and I tweeted

Linda said...

My favorite of Gregory's novels is The Boleyn Inheritance. I don't like Margaret Beaufort, so this one may be a bit of a struggle, but I'd like to give it a try. Thanks for the giveaway.

+2 follower thru Google Reader


Mary (Bookfan) said...

I haven't read a PG book but my daughter raves about them so I'd like to give it a try. Also, I've read so many good reviews for The Red Queen I think this would be a good one to begin with :)

meah56 at gmail(dot)com

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I'm a google friend connect follower

meah56 at gmail(dot)com

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I blogged on my giveaways page:

Benita said...

I've not read PG's work but I'd like to start with this one, because it's about time I did read her work.

+2 old GFC Follower/Email subscriber.


clenna said...

My favorite is The Other Boleyn Girl .

clenna at aol dot comexilise

clenna said...

#2 I'm an old follower
and an email subscriber.

clenna at aol dot com

Spring said...

Thanks so much for the contest. My favorite Gregory novel is 'Wideacere.' LOVE IT. It's a top favorite of mine.

+2, old GFC follower and email subscriber.

+2 for blogging,

+2, another blog post,


Thank you,
comethespring at gmail dot com

karenk said...

i have not read any books by philippa gregory (yet)...this cover intrigues me. thanks for the chance to read this novel :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

karenk said...

email subscriber :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Mary Kontrary said...

Good review! It made me rethink my belief after reading "The Other Boleyn Girl," which didn't impress me, that Gregory's historical novels are fluff and made me think that perhaps I should give her another try.

I'm a long-time follower of your blog.

Also, I added your giveaway to my Contests & Giveaways section on my front page sidebar:

Mary Kontrary said...

Just tweeted about it:

Mary Kontrary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zibilee said...

I would love to win this book, so please do enter me in your giveaway! I want to continue with this series and see what Gregory does with it!!


Michele said...

No need to enter me, of course, but wanted to say that you reviewed this one very well....hit the nail on the head, as usual!

Rachel said...

My favorite Philippa Gregory book is The Constant Princess and I'm a follower! Thanks for the giveaway!

Carol M said...

I've never read any of Philippa Gregory's books. I've heard so many good things about them so I would love to start with this one.
mittens0831 at aol dot com

Carol M said...

I follow by GFC
mittens0831 at aol dot com

traveler said...

I have read many of Philippa Gregory's novels and enjoyed them greatly. Wideacre was the first of many. Thanks for this giveaway. I am an e-mail subscriber. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

petite said...

This author is one of my favorite historical writers. I read Fallen Skies which was memorable. rojosho(at)hotmail(dot)com

SusanB said...

I love Gregory's books. My favorite is The Constant Princess.

SusanB said...

I am a follower.

Teresa (Read All Over Reviews) said...

I'm going to have to go with The Other Boleyn Girl, only because it's the only one by Philipa I've read thus far (though I own three more).

+2 long-time Google RSS follower and new GFC follower


holdenj said...

I really liked The Queen's Fool, it was very interesting.

holdenj said...

I'm a follower.

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About Me

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.