Category Archives: Susan Higginbotham

King Edward VI, Life and Times of Francophilia Giveaway: Susan Higginbotham Her Highness the Traitor

Please warmly welcome Susan Higginbotham, (since she put up with a eye roll of a topic suggestion) during her blog tour for her new release,

Her Highness, The Traitor

For a Guest Post topic suggestion, I really put Susan to the test. Here was my post suggestion:

 I would love it if Susan could explore more about the character of Edward VI and the actual what-if he lived and was able to gain his majority and rule as King as his father did. Which families would still be in power if he was healthy enough to marry? Who would he have married? And if King Edward was able to live out to at least his thirties, and have his own heirs to the throne, what does Susan see becoming of his sisters Mary and Elizabeth?

And now, the test.. You are hereby ordered to keep a straight face, not even a grin is allowed, or off with your head!!

The Novel I Didn’t Write: A Brief History of Edwardian England
Susan Higginbotham
In Her Highness, the Traitor, I told the story of the events surrounding Jane Grey’s brief reign, including the tragic death of young Edward VI. But what if Edward—not a sickly youth until the last months of his life, when he contracted an illness that likely could have been easily cured by modern antibiotics—had not died in 1553? Let us sit back and visit the Edwardian England that never was.

In 1558, Edward married a French princess, Elisabeth of Valois, thereby ushering in a new era of Francophilia in England. Englishmen complained of all of the French terms invading the English language, but all were too busy enjoying French cuisine to complain all that loudly.

Mary, Edward’s oldest sister, was grudgingly allowed to continue her Catholic practices, known affectionately at court as “Mary’s little whims.” She died unmarried in 1558, at which time Edward allowed a priest, imported from Spain just for that purpose, to bury her with full Catholic rites. John Fox the martyrologist, bereft of Protestant martyrs to write about, wrote a book of riddles instead, which were vulgarized by English schoolboys and are remembered chiefly in that form today.

Elizabeth, Edward’s other sister, reluctantly married a French prince in order to please her brother Edward, but made him promise that her second marriage would be to a man of her own choosing. In 1562, the widowed Elizabeth married the widowed Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whose wife Amy had died after a fall down the stairs at Dudley’s great castle of Kenilworth. The five hundred guests who witnessed the fall were in no doubt that it was a tragic accident. The new Countess of Leicester moved the body of her mother, Anne Boleyn, from its resting place at the Chapel of Peter ad Vincula into a fine tomb at Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth spent the rest of her life urging her brother to give Anne Boleyn a posthumous pardon, but Edward, out of loyalty to his own mother, Jane Seymour, refused. Only in the next century would his grandson declare Anne Boleyn to have been innocent, after which she would be the subject only of an occasional obscure historical novel.

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, died in the late 1560’s of the stomach problems that had dogged his last years. Edward VI would give his mentor and trusted advisor a grand funeral and declare a day of public mourning. Historians in the twenty-first century continue to hotly debate whether Northumberland or Edward VI was more responsible for the economic prosperity that marked the latter half of the 1550’s and the 1560’s. Jane Dudley, Northumberland’s widow, devoted the remainder of her long widowhood to commissioning statues of her late husband. Many of these “Northumberland memorials” remain in larger English towns today.

Northumberland’s son Guildford, having married Jane Grey in 1553, was made Duke of Suffolk in right of his wife in 1554 when his father-in-law, Henry Grey, died without male heirs following a hunting accident. Jane, Duchess of Suffolk, composed a number of scholarly works in Greek and Latin, but is best known for the Bible translation she produced in 1611 for the king, known as King Edward’s Bible and still used in Protestant churches today.

Guildford, Duke of Suffolk, finding himself incompatible with his intellectual wife, took a number of mistresses, including his own sister-in-law, Katherine Grey. The romance of Guildford and Katherine has been the subject of many nonfiction books, novels, plays, and films. Although in 1585, Guildford was granted a charter by King Edward to colonize the area in North America now known as the state of Henrico, named after Edward’s father, he is remembered today chiefly for his involvement with Katherine.

Frances Grey, known as the dowager Duchess of Suffolk after the Suffolk title was bestowed upon her son-in-law Guildford, married her master of horse, Adrian Stokes, after Henry Grey’s death in 1554. After being besieged for advice by mothers eager to have their learned daughters follow in Jane’s footsteps, she finally wrote a book on child-rearing. The book, which advocated combining firmness with love, was enormously popular and was followed by an equally successful book by Adrian Stokes about training horses, based on many of the same principles.

Edward VI’s reign was not entirely peaceful. In 1564, his aunt Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset, still bitter after the execution of her husband in 1552, plotted with her fellow prisoners in the Tower, Edward Courtenay and Bishop Stephen Gardiner, to murder Edward VI and his sons and put Courtenay on the throne instead. The rebellion failed when the duchess’s daughter Anne, Countess of Warwick, alerted her Dudley in-laws to her mother’s plans. The Duchess of Somerset, along with her co-conspirators, was executed in 1565 and buried beside her husband Edward Seymour in the Chapel of Peter ad Vincula. At her execution, the Duchess of Somerset broke with tradition and delivered a long harangue against King Edward, forcing the executioner to swing the axe prematurely in order to shut her up.

William Shakespeare wrote many plays during King Edward’s reign, including the famous Seymour trilogy, which chronicles the insatiable ambition of Thomas Seymour, Edward Seymour, and Anne Seymour and their attempts to remove Edward VI from the throne. For years, the test of any serious actress has been her ability to deliver Anne’s soliloquy in Act III of the play that bears her name, in which Anne from her Tower cell agonizes about whether to abandon her plan to murder Edward VI, as well as her dying speech upon the scaffold. A now-obscure play about the little-known King Richard III was once attributed to Shakespeare but is now thought to have been composed by one of his rivals in an effort to capitalize upon the popularity of the Seymour trilogy.

Elisabeth of Valois died in 1610, leaving Edward VI a grieving widower. He refused to marry again. Edward VI died in 1620 and was succeeded by his first surviving son, Henry IX. The golden Edwardian age had come to an end, but the Henrician age would be even greater. But that, my friends, is another story.

There you have it folks. Now please tell me you kept a straight face. By the time I got to the book of riddles a stupid grin was stuck on my face, but then I’ll admit to something close to cackling when I read of Amy Robsart’s death: “The five hundred guests who witnessed the fall were in no doubt that it was a tragic accident”..
And Frances Grey’s book on child-rearing forced a strange sound.. and poor Anne Seymour…

Brava, Susan! Thanks for indulging us!

Sourcebooks is offering followers of Burton Book Review, in US/Canada, a copy of Her Highness, The Traitor..

To enter please comment on this guest post and leave me your email address. Giveaway ends 06/14/12

Extra entry for commenting on the Review post for Her Highness, The Traitor



Filed under 16th Century, Lady Jane Grey, Susan Higginbotham

Her Highness, The Traitor by Susan Higginbotham

Good book. Hate this cover.

Her Highness, The Traitor by Susan Higginbotham
Sourcebooks Landmark; June 1, 2012
Historical fiction
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:

Frances Grey harbored no dream of her children taking the throne. Cousin of the king, she knew the pitfalls of royalty and privilege. Better to marry them off, marry them well, perhaps to a clan like the Dudleys. Jane Dudley knew her husband was creeping closer to the throne, but someone had to take charge, for the good of the country. She couldn’t see the twisted path they all would follow. The never–before–told story of the women behind the crowning of Jane Grey, this novel is a captivating peek at ambition gone awry, and the damage left in its wake.

In Her Highness, The Traitor Susan Higginbotham writes of the famous Tudor era during Edward VI’s short reign, and the struggle for the crown that followed King Edward’s death in 1553. Although the story is not a new one for Tudor fans, the author chose two intriguing figures of the time to narrate the story: Frances Grey, a niece of the old King Henry VIII, and Jane (Guildford) Dudley, who was married to John Dudley, father of the now famous Elizabethan courtier, Robert Dudley. The Tudor era is fraught with similar names (Robert, Henry, Edward) and nobles who’s titles can come and go on a king’s whim, which makes for confusing reading in any Tudor novel.

Higginbotham attempts to stay true to the story of the women she features, without too many detailed accounts that were going on behind the scenes. Frances Grey is popularly known as the witchy mother of the nine-day queen Lady Jane Grey and is rarely shown in a sympathetic light. If the author strove to right that wrong opinion of Frances, she succeeded. I loved the character of Frances from the beginning: she was stubborn, realistic, and not too fanciful as one may expect born with royal blood.

Jane Dudley’s story is similar to Frances’ as they each have children caught in the tangled web their husbands created. Frances’ daughter was put on the throne of England, attempting to bypass the Lady Mary. Bloody Mary did not get the moniker for nothing, as the novel will demonstrate. Frances and Jane each become Duchesses due to the political prowess of their husbands, but the titles end up having a high price.

The story is told in alternating first person point of views by the two duchesses, which caused me to think twice each time a new chapter began. I felt it may flowed better had the two narratives been told in third person, but eventually I took it all in stride. The author’s own witty sense of humor starts off quickly with the novel, with small joking statements being made which at times seemed out of place, knowing the subject matter to be would include a few deaths of family members, but the serious situations when they occurred were handled with due decorum and were quite emotive at times.

I enjoyed reading about the behind the scenes dynamics of the families of the two women, but felt there may have been a bit left out, but at 336 pages this was not meant to be a hefty historical. The reason for putting Lady Jane Grey on the throne seemed vague, the people who supported this decision were few, and a lot of the goings-on and would-be-drama simply seemed glazed over considering the myriads of upheaval that the women experienced during the reign of Edward VI, Jane Grey, and then Bloody Mary. The men in the main protagonists’ lives seemed to be represented well enough as characters in a novel and not much else, but I did get entrenched in the storyline enough that I wound up wishing for a happier outcome for the families despite what the history books tell us.

Yet, Higginbotham has a firm grip on her details and tells the story as close to fact as she can, adding in the personal details of the courtiers in such a way that they would be proud of. The traits of each of them could be imagined to the fullest, and Higginbotham presents a plausible and pleasurable historical account that all Tudor fiction fans would enjoy. Susan Higginbotham is one of the best accessible historical fiction authors out there and will soon be well known for very enjoyable and well-researched novels.

My cover review where I rant about this book cover to get it out of my system (& not into this review).
My other Susan Higginbotham posts, includes reviews such as Queen of Last Hopes which was a Best of 2011 for Burton Book Review.
Stay tuned for an alternative history (you heard me) guest post from Susan Higginbotham for her blog tour tomorrow, and a chance to win your own copy.


Filed under 16th Century, 2012 Releases, 2012 Review, Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Robert Dudley, Susan Higginbotham

Cover Review! Her Highness, The Traitor

Hate this cover.

Her Highness, The Traitor by Susan Higginbotham,  cover from Sourcebooks Landmark

This post was originally supposed to be where I posted my review of Her Highness, The Traitor, but instead I have decided to separate it from the review of the actual writing. I do this in an effort to not fault the author because of this cover that I dislike so much that it made me not want to read the book half the time.

The cover is just …blah…. and this cover 50% influenced my reading experience. I was put off originally because of the back of the lady’s head. The two main protagonists are two married women, and it is my impression that married Tudor women were supposed to keep their hair hidden under headdress. And the model chosen definitely has striped highlights in her hair. If only they had that back of her head covered in a headdress I probably would have been able to move past my dislike for the cover, but instead I found myself picking apart everything and hating it.

 For the ARC, it pretty much matches the one above, minus the tagline. Then I saw the tag line (The Tudor Story You Don’t Know) for the finished version and quite frankly it is just cheesy. Who are they to assume we don’t know the story of the Dudley and the Greys?

Final brighter version?

 When I looked at Barnes & Noble for the final cover it seemed even worse with the brighter coloring they switched to. The one thing that was acceptable with the cover above was the earthy darker tones, but they even took that away with the lavender colored box around the title.

And the cover found on B&N (and Sourcebooks) doesn’t even put the comma in after Her Highness. Is there a comma or not?

Then they decided to go a bit more juvenile with the tag line and not capitalize the words as first suggested in prior pic uploads.

Take a look at some of the Sourcebooks published books by Higginbotham previously:
Aren’t these gorgeous? I love seeing the old artwork used as covers for historical fiction. And yes, some of these leaned towards the dreaded ‘headless’ covers that we were getting sick of, but I think these were very well done. Definitely inspiring enough to make me want to pick up the books and read on.
Thanks for letting me rant. Review of what is between the covers will be up next.


Filed under 16th Century, 2012 Releases, Susan Higginbotham

>Book Review: The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham


The Queen of Last Hopes: The Story of Margaret of Anjou by Susan Higginbotham
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (January 1, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-1402242816
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:A Fantastic Reading Experience!

It would be called the Wars of the Roses, but it all began with one woman’s fury…

Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England, cannot give up on her husband-even when he goes insane. And as mother to the House of Lancaster’s last hope, she cannot give up on her son-even when all England turns against him. This gripping tale of a queen is at its heart a tender tale of love: passionate, for her husband, and motherly, for her only son.

The Wars of the Roses has been my favorite period to read about during the last two years. Following that would be the Tudor era, but the battles between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists are always full of passion and from so many points of view that I have not been bored yet after reading many books on the era. I will not recount the events of the novel as there are many characters and titles to decipher that is hard to keep up with. Using a few key players, such as the fatherly Suffolk, the must’ve-been-handsome Henry Beaufort or the seemingly murderous Yorkist factions, Higginbotham retraces Margaret’s story with a passion and talent as Higginbotham gives Margaret’s name a new found respect. Wars of the Roses fans know what is to happen by the end of Margaret’s story, but will they be sympathetic of Margaret of Anjou or to the Yorkists that stole the crown from her husband?

I will say that I haven’t had a desire to read for a day straight in months, yet I am honored that Higginbotham broke me from that sad fact with her story of Margaret of Anjou and the fruitless fight to put her son Edward on the throne of England. Once I had a chance to get 70 pages into the story, I could not put it down; I was so entertained by Higginbotham’s telling of Margaret’s story which is why I endowed the five star rating. Even knowing what historical tragedies would play out in the story, I was hooked and enamored with Margaret. In previous reads, Margaret is normally referred to as merely the Frenchwoman, the whore, the witch.. and finally we have a much more pleasant view of this consort of the saintly Henry VI. Their son Edward of Lancaster had always been in the background of my previous reads, as he had never gotten the chance to make his mark on England. Yet, the way Higginbotham tells it, readers of her newest Wars of the Roses novel will never forget Edward of Lancaster and the throne that should not have been stolen from him; and one cannot but wonder if only he had been successful in the Lancastrian cause…

If you had not chosen a side before, either Lancaster or York, be prepared to become Lancastrian. I had never felt Yorkist in nature, and this novel solidifies my Lancastrian leanings for me once again. Margaret of Anjou will undoubtedly gain much earned respect through this telling, as she was loyal to the country that she married and the man who was England’s rightful king. She held fast in her resolve even when others would have given up, and I am not ashamed to admit that Higginbotham’s novel of Margaret and her fight for the Lancastrian cause brought me to tears. Perhaps the story sheds too much of a positive light on Margaret, but to give the novel further credit, it is told with multiple points of view which helps round out and personify the events for the reader and for once, a multiple narration did not grate at my nerves as it is known to do.

Susan Higginbotham’s writing has an easy conversational feel to it, while deftly imparting detailed historically significant events throughout which makes Higginbotham a favorite historical fiction author of mine. The three novels of hers that I have read have all been read quickly by me, just short of devouring them. I appreciate the fact that although she takes some liberties with the historical accounts, she stays well within the realms of accuracy, and when she strays she explains both herself and history in the author’s note. I have nothing to say to criticize this novel, and am pleased to recommend this novel to any history fan interested in some of the struggles during the Wars of the Roses and how the Tudors came to their eventual throne. Readers will become immersed in the quest for the rightful owner of the crown of England, as history’s mysteries also seep through to help add to the titillation of the reader.

See my previous reviews and guest post from the author here at this link.


Filed under 15th Century, 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Susan Higginbotham, Wars of the Roses

>Wars of the Roses on Facebook: Susan Higginbotham

The following post was submitted by Susan Higginbotham, author of historical fiction novels such as Hugh and Bess and The Stolen Crown. This is a popular post with Susan’s blog followers, and is very funny if you know the characters of the Wars of the Roses AND Facebook jargon!

What if some of the figures from the Wars of the Roses joined Facebook (and some people from other centuries dropped in from time to time)? It might look something like this:
Margaret of Anjou joined the Frenchwomen Don’t Get Fat and French Girls Make Better Brides groups.
Henry VI needs a marriage manual. Fast.
    William de la Pole, Marquis of Suffolk commented: Just lie back and think of England.
    Henry VI sent a private message to William de la Pole, Marquis of Suffolk: It’s not working.
    William de la Pole, Marquis of Suffolk replied: Is the girl in the bed with you?
    Henry VI replied: Oh!!!!

Henry VI sent a gift of Maine to Charles VII.
    Margaret of Anjou, William de la Pole, Marquis of Suffolk, and Rene of Anjou like this

William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk joined the I’m a Duke Now, and Everything’s Going to Be Just Great group

William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk joined the Don’t Think of It as Exile, Think of It as a Holiday! group

William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, fails to appreciate how having your head chopped off with a sword is any better than having it chopped off with an ax.
    Anne Boleyn likes this.

Richard, Duke of York thinks it’s time to come back to England
    Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick likes this
    Edmund Beaufort, first Duke of Somerset commented: Oh, boy. I can hardly wait.
    Richard, Duke of York commented: Neither can I!

Margaret of Anjou joined the Preggers at Last! About Bloody Time! group.

Richard, Duke of York, wrote on Margaret of Anjou’s wall: Hey, it’s been a while since Henry VI posted! What’s up there?
    Margaret of Anjou: He’s just not into social networking anymore. That’s all. Don’t stress about it.

Margaret of Anjou joined the Let’s Name Our Firstborn Son Edward Just to Bug the Hell out of Future Historical Novelists group

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick took a quiz: Who Fathered Margaret of Anjou’s baby? Would you like to take the quiz?

Richard, Duke of York is really excited about being named Protector of England while Henry VI “rests.”
    Cecily, Duchess of York likes this.

Margaret joined the Just Because I’m Halfway Civil to a Man Doesn’t Mean He Fathered My Child group

Henry VI is feeling much better now, thank you.
    Margaret of Anjou likes this
    Edward of Lancaster likes this

Richard, Duke of York, wrote on Edward of Lancaster’s wall: Aren’t you too young to have a Facebook account?
    Edward of Lancaster commented: Bug off, Ricky boy.

Richard, Duke of York joined the Don’t Think of It as Exile, Think of It as a Holiday! group

Richard, Duke of York does not have a Facebook account listed. Would you like to start an account for Richard, Duke of York?

Margaret of Anjou is looking forward to conquering her enemies and then getting back to her nice, comfy bed at Greenwich.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick sent a gift of a shiny new crown to Edward, Earl of March.

Edward, Earl of March has updated his profile to read “Edward IV, King of England.”

Margaret of Anjou [this post has been removed from Facebook due to inappropriate language]

Richard Woodville, Lord Rivers and Anthony Woodville, Lord Scales joined the I Love the House of York! No, Really! group

Margaret of Anjou and Edward, Prince of Wales joined the Don’t Think of It as Exile, Think of It as a Holiday! group

Elizabeth Grey joined the I Don’t Put Out! Not Even if You’re a King! group

Elizabeth Grey is heading to Reading today and can hardly wait until her next status update.
    Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford likes this.

Elizabeth Grey is married to THE KING!!!!! That’s right, girlfriends, THE KING!!!!!!
    Richard Grey, Thomas Grey, Anthony Woodville, Anne Woodville, Mary Woodville, Edward Woodville, Richard Woodville, Lionel Woodville, Jacquetta     Woodville, Joan Woodville, Richard Woodville, Lord Rivers, and Jacquetta Woodville, Duchess of Bedford like this
    Eliza, Lady Scales: You rule, girl!
    Katherine Woodville: Oh, I want to marry a duke!
    John Woodville: Got an elderly duchess for me, sis?

Facebook was temporarily unavailable today. Our technical support staff has investigated and discovered that this was due to excessively heavy traffic on our site in the area of Grafton, England. We apologize for the inconvenience.

William Hastings wrote on Edward IV’s wall. “Caught you, Ned, didn’t she?”

Cecily, Duchess of York is having a very bad day.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, is having an even worse day.

Eleanor Talbot is trying to figure out how to get the royal monograms off her silverware.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick sent a friend request to Margaret of Anjou. Message: If you ever feel like working together, Meg, just PM me.
Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England and Don’t You Forget It, Either! loves it when men do some serious groveling.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick has sore knees.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick joined the I Love the House of Lancaster! No, Really! group.

Edward IV, King of England joined the Don’t Think of It as Exile, Think of It as a Holiday! group.

Elizabeth, Queen of England, No Matter What That Frenchwoman Says is going for a nice little rest at Westminster Abbey sanctuary.

Henry VI, King of England wishes someone would explain to him why he has to come out of the Tower and put on the king outfit again.
    Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick sent a message to Henry VI: Just sit tight. I’ll explain it all to you when I get there.

Elizabeth, Queen of England, No Matter What That Frenchwoman Says joined the Let’s Name Our Firstborn Son Edward and Bug the Hell out of Future Historical Novelists group.

Edward of Lancaster, Prince of Wales, is really looking forward to chopping off some Yorkist heads.

Edward IV is BACK!!!!!! PARTY!!!!!!

Margaret of Anjou joined the Decorating Your Prison Cell for Less group.
    Henry VI left this group.

Anne Neville is thinking of taking some cookery classes to cheer her up in her widowhood.
    George, Duke of Clarence likes this.

Richard, Duke of Gloucester thinks it’s high time to get married.
    George, Duke of Clarence commented: Maybe there’s a Woodville girl free?
    Richard, Duke of Gloucester commented: I was aiming a bit higher, brother dearest.

George, Duke of Clarence joined the Decorating Your Prison Cell for Less group.

George, Duke of Clarence said he’d like to drown his sorrows, but he didn’t mean it lit–

Edward IV has an annoying head cold but should be just fine in a day or so.
    Richard, Duke of Gloucester commented: Hope you feel better soon, bro!

Richard, Duke of Gloucester is wondering how he would look in purple.

Edward, Prince of Wales changed his profile to read Edward V, King of England.
    Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers likes this.

Edward V is going to London with Uncle Anthony. Hope to see Uncle Richard and Uncle Harry on the way!
    Richard, Duke of Gloucester and Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham like this.

Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers is taking an unexpected trip to Pontefract.

Edward V, King of England would like certain people to remember that he’s the King of England. Not them.
    Richard, Duke of York sent a message to Edward V: Uncle Dickon giving you trouble?
    Edward V, King of England, replied: He’s a prick. I’ll text you.

Richard, Duke of Gloucester is reading What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers on Goodreads.

William, Lord Hastings is getting ready to go to a boring council meeting. Then supper with Mistress Shore. Sweet!

John Morton, Bishop of Ely hopes everyone likes the nice strawberries he’s grown.

William, Lord Hastings fails to appreciate how wonderful it is to be the first person executed on Tower Green.
    Anne Boleyn likes this.

Edward V is really pissed that his Uncle Richard is making him close his Facebook account.
    Edward, Earl of Warwick: Bummer, dude. Text me.
    Richard, Duke of York: C U Soon, Ned!

Richard, Duke of Gloucester changed his profile to read Richard III, King of England.
    Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham likes this.

Anne, Queen of England is wondering if she’ll have time to get to the hairdresser for her coronation.
    Elizabeth, Queen of England No Matter What that Stupid Dickon Says commented: Just put a bag over your head, dearie. No one will notice.
    Anne, Queen of England: Well, I never!
    Elizabeth, Queen of England No Matter What that Stupid Dickon Says: Yes, that’s why you only have the one child, dearie.

Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham is feeling very important today.

Richard III, King of England is having a great time on his royal progress. They like me! They really, really like me!

Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham is feeling confused.
    John Morton, Bishop of Ely sent a message to Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham: What’s wrong, your grace? Maybe I can help.

Henry Tudor is looking for “England” on Map Quest. Oh, there it is!
    Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham likes this.
    John Morton, Bishop of Ely likes this.
    Jasper Tudor likes this.
    Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, likes this.
    Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England No Matter What That Stupid Dickon Says likes this.

Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, wrote on Henry Tudor’s wall: You are my own sweet son and all my worldly joy. I will be so happy when you arrive in England.
    Henry Tudor sent a message to Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond: Er, Mum, next time could you send that to me privately instead of posting it on my wall?
    Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond replied: Sorry, my dearest. I haven’t got the hang of the Internet yet. Did you pack a pair of warm slippers for the voyage over?

Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, should have checked The Weather Channel before leaving Wales.
    Richard III, King of England commented: God, you’re pathetic, Harry. You know you couldn’t organize an orgy in a brothel, much less a revolt.
    John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln likes this.

Henry Tudor sent a message to Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond: Don’t worry, Mum, I’ll get here sooner or later.
    Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond: Sigh.

Elizabeth of York is SO looking forward to getting out of sanctuary and staying at Uncle Richard’s court.
    Richard III, King of England commented: Be sure to bring that dress I mentioned that time when I visited you and your mother in sanctuary.
    Elizabeth of York: But isn’t that the one you said was tight, Uncle?
    Richard III, King of England: That’s the one!

Eleanor de Clare, Lady Despenser invited Elizabeth of York to join the My Uncle the King Is One Swell Guy group.
    Elizabeth of York accepted the invitation.

Anne, Queen of England joined the It’s Not Consumption, It’s Just a Nagging Cough group.

Richard III, King of England just wishes people would mind their own business for a change. Can’t a lonely widower be friendly to an extremely good-looking, buxom young lady who happens to be his niece without everyone posting on Facebook and Twitter about it?

Elizabeth of York: Stupid Sheriff Hutton. Where’s the sheriff, anyway?

Henry Tudor sent a message to Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond: This time, Mum, I’m coming. I promise.
    Margaret Beaufort: Don’t forget your warm cloak.

Richard III, King of England, is headed out to show that Welsh upstart who’s the boss around here, once and for all.
    William Stanley and Thomas Stanley like this.
    William Stanley and Thomas Stanley unliked this.

You have an invitation from Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond to become a fan of Henry VII, King of England.
    Elizabeth of York became a fan of Henry VII, King of England.

Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond started the My Son is King of England, and What Does Your Son Do for a Living? group.

Henry VII, King of England is pleased to announce the birth of his second son, Henry, today.
    Catherine of Aragon likes this.
    Anne Boleyn likes this.
    Jane Seymour likes this.
    Anne of Cleves likes this.
    Katherine Howard likes this.
    Katherine Parr likes this.
    Elizabeth I likes this.
    The Church of England likes this.
    William Shakespeare likes this.
    The British tourism industry likes this.
    Hollywood likes this.
    The English-language publishing industry likes this.

Arthur, Prince of Wales is wondering what all the fuss is about. Stupid baby brother.   

Reprinted with permission. Susan Higginbotham’s blog can be found at Medieval Woman: Blogging with Historical Fiction Writer Susan Higginbotham


Filed under Richard Duke of York, Susan Higginbotham, Wars of the Roses

>GIVEAWAY & GUEST AUTHOR: "The Stolen Crown" by Susan Higginbotham

>As part of her blog tour this month, please welcome the author Susan Higginbotham to The Burton Review!
What follows is a guest post by Susan, and at the end there is a giveaway of her new release, The Stolen Crown. (Read my review.)

Take it away, Susan:

One of the greatest English historical mysteries is that of the fate of Edward IV’s two royal sons, who were lodged in the Tower at the time Richard III made himself king and who never appeared in public afterward. Were they murdered by Richard III, as depicted so memorably by Shakespeare? Were they murdered by someone else during Richard III’s reign, such as Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham? Did they survive his reign, only be murdered by Henry VII? Were they spirited abroad, to die of natural causes in anonymity? Did the younger prince, Richard, Duke of York, return to claim his throne in the guise of one Perkin Warbeck? Did the boys simply succumb to a natural illness while in the Tower? If they were murdered, were they smothered? Were they slowly bled to death? Did they kill themselves?

My own thoughts about this mystery are reflected in The Stolen Crown, and who I am to spoil things by telling you here? (As William Hastings tells Buckingham in the novel, “To use an old cliché, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”) Instead, I’ll simply point out that intelligent, well-informed people have differed on this matter throughout the centuries, and that hundreds (if not thousands) of books, articles, and websites have been devoted to the subject. My own favorite discussion is that of A. J. Pollard in Richard III and the Princes in the Tower.

Indeed, the two English novelists I most love—Charles Dickens and Jane Austen—came to dead opposite conclusions on question of the princes’ fate. Though, sadly, none of Austen’s fictional characters ever engages in a conversation on this subject that I can recall (it would be interesting to hear Darcy and Elizabeth spar on this theme, for instance, or to hear what would surely be Mr. Knightley’s sensible view), the young Jane gave her own views in The History of England from the reign of Henry the 4th to the death of Charles the 1st:

“The Character of this Prince has been in general very severely treated by Historians, but as he was York, I am rather inclined to suppose him a very respectable Man. It has indeed been confidently asserted that he killed his two Nephews & his Wife, but it has also been declared that he did not kill his two Nephews, which I am inclined to beleive true; & if this is the case, it may also be affirmed that he did not kill his Wife, for if Perkin Warbeck was really the Duke of York, why might not Lambert Simnel be the Widow of Richard. Whether innocent or guilty, he did not reign long in peace, for Henry Tudor E. of Richmond as great a Villain as ever lived, made a great fuss about getting the Crown & having killed the King at the battle of Bosworth, he succeeded to it.”

Dickens, on the other hand, fell firmly into the camp that believed Richard to be guilty. As he put it in A Child’s History of England, “While he was on this journey, King Richard stayed a week at Warwick. And from Warwick he sent instructions home for one of the wickedest murders that ever was done—the murder of the two young princes, his nephews, who were shut up in the Tower of London.” Or, as Sam Weller puts it rather more memorably in The Pickwick Papers: “Business first, pleasure arterwards, as King Richard the Third said when he stabbed the t’other king in the Tower, afore he smothered the babbies.”

With the greatest of novelists disagreeing on the subject, can we hope that any solution to the mystery by us humbler folk will meet with universal acceptance? Probably not—but given the direction of current literary trends, I’m banking on the possibility of the mystery being solved through a book called The Zombie Princes in the Tower or Richard III: The Vampire King. The world is waiting breathlessly—though not, mind you, bloodlessly—for a work in this vein.

Susan’s third medieval novel, THE STOLEN CROWN


On May Day, 1464, six-year-old Katherine Woodville, daughter of a duchess who has married a knight of modest means, awakes to find her gorgeous older sister, Elizabeth, in the midst of a secret marriage to King Edward IV. It changes everything—for Kate and for England.

Then King Edward dies unexpectedly. Richard III, Duke of Gloucester, is named protector of Edward and Elizabeth’s two young princes, but Richard’s own ambitions for the crown interfere with his duties…
Lancastrians against Yorkists: greed, power, murder, and war. As the story unfolds through the unique perspective of Kate Woodville, it soon becomes apparent that not everyone is wholly evil—or wholly good.


Author, Susan Higginbotham

Susan Higginbotham is the author of two historical fiction novels. The Traitor’s Wife, her first novel, is the winner of ForeWord Magazine’s 2005 Silver Award for historical fiction and is a Gold Medalist, Historical/Military Fiction, 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards. She writes her own historical fiction blog and is a contributor to the blog Yesterday Revisited. Higginbotham has worked as an editor and an attorney, and lives in North Carolina with her family. For more information, please visit

Follow Susan on her Blog Tour for The Stolen Crown:
March 1: Christy English
March 3: Pop Syndicate’s Book Addict
March 4: Rundpinne
March 5: Queen of Happy Endings
March 9: The Burton Review
March 10: Psychotic State
March 12: Laura’s Reviews
March 15: Fresh Fiction
March 16: Devourer of Books
March 22: Beth Fish Reads
March 24: Historical Hussies
March 26: Peeking Between the Pages
March 30: Historical Tapestry
March 31: So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Sourcebooks is sponsoring two copies of THE STOLEN CROWN for USA and Canada residents only.
The catch:
You have to answer this question:
What do you think happened to the Princes in the tower?
Leave your comment with an email address so I can contact the winners.

+2 entries: post a graphic link in your blog’s Sidebar linking to this post.

Giveaway ends March 27th. Good Luck!
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Filed under 2010 Releases, Author Interviews, Author Post, Medieval Era, Susan Higginbotham

>Book Review: The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham

The Stolen Crown: A Novel by Susan Higginbotham
Sourcebooks Pub. Date: March 01, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1402237669
Review copy provided by Sourcebooks, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating: somewhere flipflopping between3.5 Stars or 4 stars

As opposed to Susan Higginbotham’s last piece of historical fiction (Hugh and Bess: my review), this novel was loaded with a lot more historical events. When one is dealing with the era of the Wars of the Roses, it is very hard to write a novel without including at least a zillion of the secondary characters. When I first opened up The Stolen Crown, I was greeted with several pages of a character list. This is when you realize you will require your thinking-cap to be working at its very best. As I said, her last novel was quite entertaining and a breezy read. This one is entertaining, but not quite so breezy. Of course, I cannot think of the topic at hand ever having the possibility of being breezy unless it’s one of those bodice-ripper romances that ignore the entire concept behind the Wars of the Roses.

Trapped in the Wars of the Roses, one woman finds herself sister to the queen…and traitor to the crown.

Now, I hesitate to mention Philippa Gregory, because I don’t want Susan to take me off of her blogroll, but I must point out that those who read (and enjoyed) Gregory’s recent The White Queen would do well to read this one as well. Not quite in the same vein of writing style, but these two reads each cover the Wars of The Roses, and the Woodville family, and this is written in an easier to follow fashion as opposed to some others regarding the era. Whereas The White Queen covers more of the view from Elizabeth Woodville, queen to Edward IV, and includes a lot of fictionalized events, Higginbotham uses alternating first-person narratives from Kate Woodville, a much younger sister to Queen Elizabeth (not to be confused with Elizabeth I), and Henry Stafford, who becomes Kate’s husband, but stays true to course with historical accuracy with these two narrators embellishing as they pleased.

My educated guess after this second read from this author, is that Higginbotham is one of those writers who is quite humorous, and lets a little of that out within her characters. She does this throughout, with sarcastic remarks coming out of the mouths of her young narrators, and at some junctures it is quite funny. Others though may find it too out of key with the subject matter, after all, people are dying left and right (Lancastrians and Yorkists) and there seemingly is no rhyme and reason to it. Eventually, as the characters mature, it shows within the writing as well and there are not as many tongue-in-cheek comments.

The Wars of the Roses is a very complicated period of time where more than one person felt that they had a right to a piece of the royal crown. Hence the title: The Stolen Crown. Think on that a bit… back and forth the crown went.. instead of the seemingly simple hereditary lineage we have Edward IV ‘stealing’ the crown from Henry VI. The novel doesn’t go into how this happened, since the novel begins with the setting of young Kate Woodville being a witness to the secret marriage between King Edward and her sister Elizabeth. So after Edward ‘steals’ the crown, he goes and marries into some upstart family and that’s where the novel begins, along with England’s chaos. The roses stand for Lancaster Red, and White Rose of York. Their fate is to become united.. but first the Wars of the Roses must be fought, many must die, and only one may win, in such a way that it is to put to rest the two warring factions.

As the story opens with Edward and Elizabeth marrying in secret, we meet some of the Woodville siblings. And indeed this is one helluva family that Edwards marries into. Not only does Edward thwart normal royal protocol by marrying secretly instead of contracting a fantastically beneficial one with perhaps a foreign alliance to boot, this marriage brings with it a veritable town of Woodvilles!! The so-called Kingmaker, Warwick, the guy who really likes to call the shots as far as the realm is concerned, is beyond peeved when he learns of what his protegé Edward has done. Along with the marriage, the Woodvilles are given better titles and lands of which they had never dreamed of owning.

The Nevilles and the Warwicks and the rest of the Yorkist factions are now forced to step aside for the bazillion siblings of the Queen, not to mention the two Grey sons she had with her first husband. Hopeful marriage alliances that were always expected to happen for the Yorkists were instead given to the Woodvillian relatives. Which is where the little Yorkist Kate Woodville comes in. She is married off to Henry Stafford, the offspring of a Lancastrian family! The question remains, how will a Yorkist and a Lancastrian get along together? And one feels that a repeat of the romantic style of the previous novel Hugh and Bess could happen, where it really turns less into historical anecdotes and more into a love story.. but that doesn’t happen here.

Instead, we are treated to a sense of the times, of how tenuous the hold on life was. (The Woodville) Queen Elizabeth has to go to sanctuary because Warwick has revolted against his King, and in 1470 Henry VI a slightly insane King is placed back on the throne. Henry’s wife, Margaret of Anjou is mentioned in the novel, but not with too much emphasis. But she did represent a figurehead for the Lancastrians, and she and Henry had a son Edward of Lancaster that in normal days should have meant he was next in line. But as I said, Edward IV had stolen the crown. Well, it was stolen back from Edward. Then he got it back again. Everyone was happy when Warwick was finally killed in battle, even young Kate, but she was flabbergasted when poor helpless Henry VI was suddenly found dead. Maybe King Edward was not so great after all.

I neglected to mention that Edward IV has two brothers, who also must be mentioned because of the way that The Wars of the Roses works out. The brother Richard is a great friend to Henry Stafford, and he figures moreso than George, the Duke of Clarence. Richard and Henry are portrayed as buddies, as thick as thieves. George has been a traitor and Edward still takes him back into his Yorkist fold (keep your enemies closer mentality). And George is a greedy evil young man, who kidnaps Richard’s beloved Anne because he wants her lands. Or he is jealous. It doesn’t emphasize this event too much.

As with most of the events that don’t occur directly on to our two main protagonists, many details are left out. Which is understandable because of the multitude of details that inevitably occur when dealing with the many people and events involved with the Wars of The Roses. And there are many, many details. Those readers who do not have any clue as to what the Wars of the Roses are about may find themselves a little lost from time to time, but the main story thankfully remains a focus throughout, so that events that could take chapters of our time are merely grazed over here, because this is a story focused on two people. And I still cannot picture Queen Elizabeth as a Bess or a Bessie. Calling her Elizabeth would’ve been just fine with me.

Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, finally grows into his inheritance, and sees stars in his eyes whenever land or Richard of York are featured. Thus, Henry becomes less of a likable character, whereas Kate does stay true to form, as a good wife to her Lancastrian husband and a good sister to her Yorkist Queen. King Edward IV dies suddenly, leaving behind his Woodvillian offspring in the hands of hateful Yorkists (like his brother Richard turns out to be). Henry and Kate have children, and they become her only solace as the inevitable happens. Queen Elizabeth and her family are forced into sanctuary yet again. Henry supports Richard of York when he overthrows the succession, the boys of King Edward disappear, and Richard steals the crown. Here we go again with the stolen crown business. England doesn’t know what happened to the boy king, and are seemingly in a state of shock but Higginbotham has Richard III acting very non-Ricardian…  Which this non-Ricardian-for-the-moment believes to be the probable fate.

Finally, Henry realizes that Richard III is a monster, although he has worshipped him most of his life. Henry decides to join the rebel cause, which supports Margaret Beaufort’s son Henry Tudor. He is descended from Edward III, therefore having a claim to the throne. As a Lancastrian, the family believes the Yorkist family should not be anywhere close to the throne. When our protagonist Henry Stafford sees this light, his best friend Richard III becomes his strongest foe. What ensues is a sad account of Stafford trying to support Henry Tudor’s claim, but is quickly captured and dealt with accordingly, as history tells us matter-of-factly, but Higginbotham does an admirable job of humanizing it.

How does the widowed Kate fare in Richard III’s rule as a wife to a turn-coat? As a hated Woodville can she protect her now-Stafford-traitor-tainted children from the child-killer King Richard? I believe I’ve given you a fair account of the story so far, you will need to read the book to find out the end. There is more to the story, and even an epilogue which I always really enjoy in my historical reads. Kind of like a cherry on top.

I have always enjoyed a Wars of the Roses story, and this one is included among them. The myriad of characters and the forces at work make so many different side stories that form an intricate puzzle that slowly but surely forms into a beautiful portrait (of which I wish there was an accompanying genealogocial chart). Higginbotham’s story is a part of that puzzle: a finely woven web that traps you into the magnificent history of the Wars of the Roses, and this one thread of Henry and Kate is an excellent rendering against the backdrop of the tumultuous period of England before the Tudors took over. Definitely a must read for those who are searching for more clues to the period of the Wars of the Roses, as this novel is a perfectly sliced portion to whet your appetite for more.

I welcome Susan to The Burton Review on March 9, 2010 with a guest post, so please be sure to check back then!


Filed under 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, Susan Higginbotham, Wars of the Roses

>Book Review: Hugh and Bess: A Love Story by Susan Higginbotham

Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham
ISBN: 978-1402215278
Price: $14.99
Published July 2009 by Sourcebooks, originally published 2007
Review copy provided by the author/publisher
The Burton Review Rating:4 stars!

“Forced to marry Hugh le Despenser, the son and grandson of disgraced traitors, Bess de Montacute, just 13 years old, is appalled at his less-than-desirable past. Meanwhile, Hugh must give up the woman he really loves in order to marry the reluctant Bess. Far apart in age and haunted by the past, can Hugh and Bess somehow make their marriage work?

Just as walls break down and love begins to grow, the merciless plague endangers all whom the couple holds dear, threatening the life and love they have built.

Award-winning author Susan Higginbotham’s impeccable research will delight avid historical fiction readers, and her enchanting characters will surely capture every reader’s heart. Fans of her first novel, The Traitor’s Wife, will be thrilled to find that this story follows the next generation of the Despenser family.”

I had saved this review so that I could post it close to Valentine’s Day, as it is a perfect read to celebrate love. Hugh and Bess is the medieval story of two people who were not a love match at first sight. Young Bess Montagu expected to marry high due to her father’s (William Montacute, 1st Earl of Salisbury) high standing in the royal ranks. She never expected to have to marry a man whose very name of Despenser was known as traitorous, due to both Hugh’s father and grandfather having been executed at Queen Isabella’s orders in 1326. But Hugh was working hard to restore his family name, and he knew it would please the king and himself to marry someone so close to royal favor. Hugh at 32 was also much older than Bess was; she was 14 and had naturally been hoping for a match that would be with someone closer to her age (and rank). We learn about Hugh’s upbringing and the effects of being a traitor’s son, and we meet Bess at a very young age as she is growing up within an exalted family.

As Susan tells it, the marriage was rough for a year so, and then especially so when Bess found her trusted friend in bed with her husband. Emma had become Bess’s friend after she had been Hugh’s mistress for years before he had married, which is something Bess had not known. Somehow, they got past the infidelity and fell in love with each other. They soon had a happy marriage, although childless. Sadly, the ending is not quite a happy one, and as I finished the story I had to struggle to maintain my composure. The beginning of the story started off with more of the historical facts of the times, where there were uprisings between the factions for Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer, versus those who were for the king. The history lessons abate as we get more into the marriage between Hugh and Bess. The history and the marriage are very interesting (perhaps in reality the marriage wasn’t all that interesting) and even in the author’s note we learn that the story still has so much more to tell.

I truly enjoyed this charming medieval love story, and however much is fictitious as far as the “love” part may be, it doesn’t detract from the amount of historical detail that Susan imparts. I would see this as an excellent introduction to the years circa 1335 in England. There is quite a bit of information on the Edward the II and the III and many historical figures were also mentioned. There are not a multitude of encyclopedic facts to weigh the main story down, so those who have no idea about those particular years in England need not fear of being lost in the details. I would have liked to see a genealogical chart, as I always enjoy those; both Hugh Despenser and Bess each had enough siblings that could have gotten confusing. I truly enjoyed the characterizations of the two main characters, and I always wonder how true to life my historical reads are. I would hate to be disappointed but there doesn’t seem to be alot of information available online as far as this particular Despenser. I am certainly intrigued enough to browse around for some other reads of the time period, such as Queen Isabella by Alison Weir which has been on my shelf for almost two years now.

Hugh and Bess: A Love Story by Susan Higginbotham is a fast and fun historical piece of work that I recommend to anyone who enjoys their history with a lot of love, romance and entertainment. Even though a love story, it also had its share of stark reality, such as the poignant scenes owing to the Black Death. This was my first Susan Higginbotham novel, but it won’t be my last. Her wit and subtle humor shine through in this telling, and it helps to make this an easy read. Although this novel stands alone, Susan’s earlier novel The Traitor’s Wife, focuses on Hugh’s father. The Stolen Crown: A Novel of the Wars of the Roses will be published in March 2010. Although the writing style is still with the same easy wit, The Stolen Crown is steeped with much more historical detail and not as quick a read as this one. Visit Susan’s blog for more of her insights. And for Edward II facts I must mention Alianore’s blog, because she has some very in depth essays there which are quite fun to peruse.

I will be reviewing Susan’s The Stolen Crown on its release date March 1, and Susan is scheduled to be here March 9, 2010 with a guest blog, so be sure to check back to read about more Medieval History! (giveaway alert!!)

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Filed under 2010 Review, Despenser, Edward II, Edward III, Review, Susan Higginbotham

>Teaser Tuesday~ The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham


TEASER TUESDAYS is hosted by ShouldBeReading and asks you to:
♠Grab your current read.
♠Let the book fall open to a random page.
♠Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
♠You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

The Stolen Crown: A Novel by Susan Higginbotham

Kate was a grown woman, who’d not taken it all that amiss when the late king executed his own brother. Did she really expect Richard to show mercy to the men who had plotted against his own life- and perhaps mine?” ~ page 223


Filed under Susan Higginbotham, Wars of the Roses