Title: The Stolen Crown: The Secret Marriage that Forever Changed the Fate of England
Author: Susan Higginbotham
Release Date: March 1, 2010
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Katherine Woodville is just six years old when she wakes up and finds her sister Elizabeth in the middle of a secret marriage ceremony. The groom is none other than the handsome and charming King Edward IV.
Once the marriage becomes public, the Woodville family’s fortunes shoot up faster than a rising star. Wealth, titles, and wonderful marriages come rolling in – Kate herself is married at the tender age of seven to Henry, the Duke of Buckingham. Though Kate and Henry are just children, they are fond of one another. As they grow and change with the times, they find their fates intertwined with those of Edward IV, Richard III, and Henry Tudor in this novel of the War of the Roses.
I’ve previously been acquainted with Susan Higginbotham’s historical fiction work through The Traitor’s Wife, so I was aware of the high quality of her books when I accepted The Stolen Crown for review. Her novels are impeccably researched, and The Stolen Crown was no exception. Higginbotham uses vivid historical details in order to bring the places and people she is writing about to life. One interesting tidbit that she included in her very long historical note at the end of the novel (something I always appreciate) is that Kate Woodville was not a spinster married to a young boy, as common knowledge has it. Higginbotham discusses her reasons for believing Kate was actually younger than her groom in a very convincing way. That little information demonstrates the amount and quality of research Higginbotham put into this novel, and also the fact that she is not afraid to challenge conventional thinking if her research supports it.
The novel is told from two different viewpoints, alternating between Kate and Henry (called Harry). Sometimes it can be confusing when the narrator shifts, but Higginbotham always tells the reader at the beginning of the chapter when the person telling the story changes. Both characters are well written, though I was partial to Kate. She is smart, savvy, and very appealing, yet not so much to where she does not fit into the time she lived.
I also appreciated Higginbotham’s depiction of the Woodvilles. While they are often depicted as scheming, conniving, and downright evil, Higginbotham gave them fair treatment. They were hated because their fortunes rose so high so fast, not because they were trying to control the king or practicing witchcraft. It’s completely believable, but also a refreshing change.
When Higginbotham is telling a story about characters, she doesn’t finish until that character dies. It’s really wonderful – often, authors end their novels when the action is over. Higginbotham realizes that her readers have gotten attached to the people she writes about, so she makes sure they know the full extent of their lives, not just the parts that she chooses to write about. That doesn’t mean the novels drag though; she quickly and deftly dispenses with the information, such that the reader has the information they want and is satisfied.
I definitely recommend Susan Higginbotham’s The Stolen Crown if you’re a fan of historical fiction, especially if you are tired of reading about the Tudors. I enjoyed this book and will definitely be going back to read her future novels!