Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: The Forgotten Queen by D.L. Bogdan


From her earliest days, Margaret Tudor knows she will not have the luxury of choosing a husband. As daughter of Henry VII, her duty is to gain alliances for England. Barely out of girlhood, Margaret is married by proxy to James IV and travels to Edinburgh to become Queen of Scotland.

Despite her doubts, Margaret falls under the spell of her adopted home. But she has rivals. While Jamie is an affectionate husband, he is not a faithful one. And providing an heir cannot guarantee Margaret’s safety when Jamie leads an invading army against her own brother, Henry VIII. In the wake of tragic loss she falls prey to the attentions of the ambitious Earl of Angus—a move that brings Scotland to the brink of anarchy. Beset by betrayal, secret alliances, and the vagaries of her own heart, Margaret has one overriding ambition—to preserve the crown of Scotland for her son, no matter what the cost.

Exquisitely detailed and poignant, The Forgotten Queen vividly depicts the life and loves of an extraordinary woman who helped shape the fate of two kingdoms—and in time, became the means of uniting them.

Kensington Books | January 29, 2013 | 384 pages

My Review

3 Stars

Historical novelist D.L. Bogdan's latest release, The Forgotten Queen, focuses on the life of a woman rarely featured prominently in historical fiction, Margaret Tudor, sister to England's King Henry VIII and mother of Scotland's King James V.  Told from Margaret's perspective, the story follows her life from her childhood in England until the early years of her son's marriage to Marie de Guise. 

It is somewhat surprising, given the events of her life, that Margaret is not the primary subject of more historical fiction.  After finishing this novel I can't help but wonder if the reason has to do with Margaret not being a particularly likeable figure.  While I did find Margaret agreeable at the outset of the novel, once she married James IV and moved to Scotland my opinion of her quickly soured.  Although described in the novel's synopsis as an exceptional woman, I found the Margaret of The Forgotten Queen to be anything but.  Selfish, unreasonable and politically naive is how she came across to me and, despite feeling some sympathy towards her given the tremendous number of losses she had to endure during her life, I didn't find her behaviour or actions to be particularly regal.  This may be, in part, because many of the steps Margaret took to secure her son's throne after the death of her first husband, her attempts to bring about lasting peace between England and Scotland, as well as the actions she took later in her life to force the release James V from the grip of her second husband, Archibald Douglas, occur primarily off the page.  Margaret's interactions with the Scottish Parliament, with the Privy Council, and with Scotland's most powerful nobles, with a few exceptions, are glossed over or only mentioned in passing.  The inclusion of such exchanges may have given the reader a better sense of why Margaret, who was initially named by Parliament as Regent during her son's minority and, after years of absence from her son's life, was named by Parliament as James V's chief advisor, has been called exceptional.  

While this novel didn't work particularly well for me overall, it was refreshing to read about a less well-known Tudor and it is evident that a lot of research went into the writing of the book.  Although I would have preferred the inclusion of more detail regarding Scotland's political dynamics, I do think it provides enough of an overview to ensure that readers unfamiliar with Scottish history will still get a sense for how complex the politics of this age were.  Given Bogdan employs the same writing style in The Forgotten Queen as she does in her earlier works, readers who enjoyed the author's three previous novels will likely also find this one appealing. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.