Having previously enjoyed Joanna Hickson’s Red Rose, White Rose about Cecily Neville, a figure torn between both sides in the War of the Roses, I was really looking forward to trying this, her newest historical novel, First of the Tudors.
In this new novel, Hickson again takes us back to the War of the Roses, however this time we are firmly on the Lancastrian side, as this story focuses on Jasper Tudor. Jasper is the younger son of Queen Catherine and her second husband, Owen Tudor, who has grown up far from the intrigue of the royal court. But as young men, he and his older brother Edmund are summoned to London, by their half-brother, King Henry VI, who takes a keen interest in their futures – bestowing Earldoms on them both which helps to bolster the support around him and his precarious hold on the throne.
Until now Jasper Tudor has been one of those key historical figures that is always there on the perimeter of many a historical novel. So I was thrilled when I heard Hickson had chosen him to be the protagonist for this, and what an excellent job she has done bringing him to life. Jasper comes across as a sensible, loyal, brave and intelligent man, who has a true affection for his fragile king and takes real care in the responsibilities he is given. And he will need all his guile and courage to preserve the throne and his family from the rising threat of their Yorkist cousins.
As well as seeing Jasper through all the political intrigue and hard battles, we also see him as a loving family man. His first, thwarted, love was for the heiress Margaret Beaufort, who had a short and doomed marriage to his brother Edmund, and his devotion to her never wavers. Fortunately he does find true comfort in the arms of Jane Hywel, a Welsh cousin. While Jane is a fictional character, Hickson has cleverly pieced her together from a real name and the fact Jasper did have two illegitimate daughters. Jane is also our second narrator through whom we have a window into the domestic life of Jasper, which helps to make him a more well rounded, believable and likeable character; and their love gives a more personal jeopardy to the war.
Overall, I thought First of the Tudors was a brilliantly researched and written piece of historical fiction, that had me enthralled from the beginning to the end; my only niggle would be I wanted more! However at the end of the book, Hickson’s promises another book from the point-of-view of Jasper’s nephew Henry, so I look forward to that. Great read.
Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
Have you read this? Or read anything else about Jasper Tudor?
10 Books of Summer 2017 – 2/10