The Cousin's War - Philippa Gregory
I fell in love with so many good series over time, but Philippa Gregory's stories are something special. The Cousin's War by Phillipa Gregory is one of the most thrilling examples of historical fiction I have ever laid eyes on. This bestselling 6 book series accounts the bloody struggle for the throne in the War of the Roses, the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors. Philippa Gregory tells their stories through the eyes of the secret actors - the women: mothers, daughters, wives, all of them ruthless players, who shaped history through their plotting and scheming.
The White Queen tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition, capitalizing on the legend that she bewitched King Edward IV (the White Rose of the Plantagenet York family) into marrying her in secret and putting her on the throne of England. While she and her extended family rise to the demands of her new position and the intrigues around the throne, her two sons disappearance in the Tower becomes one of the greatest mysteries that has challenged historians for centuries.
The Red Queen is centered around the Lancastrian side of The Cousin's War, following the struggles of Margaret Beaufort, the child-bride of Edmund Tudor, a very pious, but determined woman, who used her plotting skills and an unlikely alliance to bring her son on the throne of England, end the War of the Roses and start a new dynasty.
The Lady of The Rivers follows the story of Jaquetta of Luxembourg, Elizabeth Woodville's mother, daughter of the Count of Luxembourg, and related to half of Europe. Jaquetta was almost a supernatural character from my point of view, strongly believing in her descent from the water-spirit of Melusina and a strong believer in the wheel of fate.
The Kingmaker's Daughter is the thrilling story of the daughters of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the most powerful figure in the War of the Roses. In the absence of a male heir, he uses his two daughters, Anne and Isabel, as a means to an end - seizing the throne of England. This book explores the lives of two fascinating sisters, and their growth from simple pawns in their father's dangerous games to influential players in their own rights.
The White Princess is based on the life of Elizabeth of York, daughter of the White Queen and founder of the Tudor dynasty. While she is still in love with King Richard III, still grieving his unexpected death and defeat, she must pick herself up and put an end to the war, by marrying Margaret Beaufort's son, the unpredictable Henry VII.
The King's Curse is the story of Margaret Pole, cousin of Queen Elizabeth of York and lady in waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon, whose life was made of ups and downs, depending of how much of a threat was she perceived as by the volatile Tudor kings. Her rise and fall was given by her dangerous royal descent and ultimately by her inability to adapt to the ever changing court. I've seen this book as a bridge between The Cousin's War and The Tudor Court series, so if you have not read that yet, this would be a good start.
The books are all a rather quick read, and though they are not always historically accurate, they are truly page turners, as you cannot put them down until you find out what happens next. My favorite characters were Jacquetta of Luxembourg (The Lady of the Rivers), Anne Neville (The Kingmaker's Daughter) and Elizabeth of York (The White Princess).
I wasn't a huge fan of Elizabeth Woodville in The White Queen, but I liked her better than Margaret Beaufort (The Red Queen), who was depicted as a bigot and straight up evil mother-in-law in The White Princess and as a mean old lady in The King's Curse. Also, I did not like Margaret Pole (The King's Curse) as a character, she was portrayed as a coward and a rather greedy land-owner, but I did like the story very much.
If you are a fan of historical fiction, I highly recommend this series, but please make sure you read the books in chronological order, not in the order they were written - the story will make much more sense then.