In medieval England marriages are arranged for the advancement of families-love is the last consideration. Yet the moment Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York and ward to Richard Neville sets eyes on young Cecily Neville after she nearly runs him down with her horse, a strong bond forms that deepens and their arranged marriage becomes one of love and devotion. Queen by Right tells Cecily's story-her childhood and marriage to Richard where they endure triumph, tragedy, and political intrigue as their family grows and Richard decides whether to be content supporting the pious and weak King Henry VI or assert his own (and more legitimate) claim to the throne of England.
Cecily Neville may be mother to two kings (Edward IV and Richard III) and ancestor to every monarch to the present day but so little historical fiction has been devoted to her and I am so glad Anne Easter Smith decided to give her her due! The story starts off as the now widowed Cecily works through her grief by recalling the happy life she led with her beloved Richard. So starts the telling of Cecily's life beginning as a young eight year old girl. Cis (as she is known throughout the book) is a spunky child who has a hard time learning to be a demure duchess. I liked her right off the bat and she seemed very genuine to me. When she meets Richard they become fast friends which blossoms into true love as they grow up together. Cis endures Richard going off to war in France and must learn to live with the lonely times as well as the cherished ones she spends with him.
Although Richard has a much closer claim to the throne than the present monarch Henry VI, he is happy to be a loyal servant of the King. However, he makes a powerful enemy of the Queen Margaret of Anjou who sees him as a threat to her son succeeding to the throne after her husband. In this portrayal Margaret of Anjou was a viscous and manipulative creature-you definitely wouldn't want to be on her bad side! Because he is hated by the Queen, Richard is rebuffed at every point and constantly overlooked or cast aside even though he should occupy a prominent place beside the king because of his rank. Through out it all Cecily stands by her Duke and matches wits with the ambitious Queen Margaret on more than one occasion. A lot has been written on the War of the Roses but in addition to the beautiful love story between Cecily and Richard, this book gives a fascinating look at how the war between the Yorkists and Lancastrians began.
The author does take a few liberties-namely an encounter between Cecily and Jeane d'Arc (Joan of Arc) in Rouen that influences her at several points in the book. I actually liked this addition to Cecily's story though. I had read the author's first book, A Rose for the Crown, which told the story of Richard III"s mistress and mother of his illegitimate children but I have to say I liked this one a little better because I felt more of a connection with the characters. For those not so familiar with the Neville and Plantagenet family there family trees at the beginning of the book which proved extremely helpful as well as a list of characters. Even though this book clocks in at nearly 500 pages (definitely not a light read!) I found myself completely absorbed with Cecily's story and was sad to part ways with her when the book ended.
I received this via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.