Queen by Right is a good, solid, bulky historical novel set in an era I love — the Wars of the Roses — by an author I hadn’t read yet. Smith has written several books about different characters from this fascinating period in English history, which don’t need to be read sequentially. I picked up Queen by Right because it deals with Cicely Neville, mother of Edward IV and Richard III, and I’ve never read anything written from her point of view.
One of the things that makes this historical period such great ground for novelists is that there are so many strong women as well as powerful men among the cast of characters: you get not only greats like Edward, Richard, Warwick and the rest but also Marguerite d’Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville and her mother Jacquetta, Margaret Beaufort, and of course Cicely Neville. This novel takes Cicely’s story from her childhood to the death of her husband, Richard of York. The focus is mainly on their relationship and on the difficult question of how York actually became a contender for the crown — was he really power-hungry, or simply forced into a situation where he thought he was doing what was best for England and for his family?
I was disappointed that the story didn’t continue to show us Cicely’s viewpoint of the conflict as her sons became major players, eventually turning against one another, but there’s more than enough material in her early life to make a compelling book. The historical detail is completely convincing, though I found the dialogue a little stilted in places. Still, if this era and its powerful women behind the throne interest you, this is a book worth picking up.