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Editorial Reviews

Author Philippa Gregory, best-known for her historical novel The Other Boleyn Girl, turns her attention back two generations in The Red Queen, giving the spotlight to Margaret Beaufort, a devout Christian who dedicated her life to putting her son, Henry VII, on the throne. Narrator Bianca Amato takes Margaret from her girlhood as an aspiring nun through her lifelong obsession with regaining the English crown for the house of Lancaster with leisurely pacing and a steady tone. Meanwhile Graeme Malcolm, who takes on narration rights for a few chapters that take place on the battlefield, offers a straightforward look at the real, human toll of medieval power plays.

Margaret was the sole heir to the house of Lancaster, which waged a 30-year war — the War of the Roses — against the house of York for control of England. Married at 13 to Edmund Tudor, she had one son and spent the rest of her days praying that son would become king (and, certain that she was following the will of God, making calculated moves to get him there). While the book doesn’t have the romance and scandal that characterized the reign of Margaret’s grandson, Henry VIII, it offers a sweeping look at the complicated political moves of the day and the women who wielded more influence than history would give them credit for. Gregory’s Margaret is a committed mother, a devoted Lancastrian, and a passionate Catholic, and Amato performs her story with all the requisite emotions: pain at being taken from Henry; fury at the successes of the house of York; righteous, single-minded conviction of God’s will. Amato’s voice — soothing and gentle — makes Margaret’s ambition seem as innocent as a mother wanting her son to ace his math exam, and that makes the last-act reveal of the lengths she’ll go in the name of God and Lancaster that much more chilling. —Blythe Copeland

Publisher's Summary

Heiress to the red rose of Lancaster, Margaret Beaufort never surrenders her belief that her house is the true ruler of England and that she has a great destiny before her. Her ambitions are disappointed when her sainted cousin, Henry VI, fails to recognize her as a kindred spirit, and she is even more dismayed when he sinks into madness. Her mother mocks her plans, revealing that Margaret will always be burdened with the reputation of her father, one of the most famously incompetent English commanders in France. But worst of all for Margaret is when she discovers that her mother is sending her to a loveless marriage in remote Wales.

©2010 Philippa Gregory Limited. All rights reserved. (P)2010 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Critic Reviews

"Nobody does the Tudors better than Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl), so it should come as no surprise that her latest—the War of the Roses as seen through the eyes of Henry VII's mother —is confident, colorful, convincing, and full of conflict, betrayal, and political maneuvering....[L]ike Margaret Beaufort, Gregory puts her many imitators to shame by dint of unequalled energy, focus, and unwavering execution." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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  • Overall
  • Karin
  • Dublin, CA, United States
  • 09-12-10

Good book, unsympathetic heroine

Fluidly written and wonderfully narrated, THE RED QUEEN provides an engrossing portrait of Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII, first of the Tudor rulers. From early childhood, Margaret is enthralled by the story of Joan of Arc, and longs to emulate her in a life of piety and heroic deeds. Instead, she's married off at the age of twelve to a much older man, and gives birth at age thirteen. As she endures these tribulations, she hardens in her conviction that God has chosen her for a special destiny, and focuses all her will on the Lancaster cause and her son Henry, taken from her at an early age and awarded to a series of guardians. Unfortunately for the reader, the sorrows and tragedies of her life harden Margaret into a narrow-minded fanatic, who has little compassion or empathy for those around her. Her second husband, Henry Stafford, is a kind, gentle, and wise man who adores her and treats her with kindness and consideration, but blinded by ambition and with a heart turned to stone, she does not return his love, choosing time and again to betray him politically in favor of her Lancaster relations. The book is very interesting, and I really like the narrator, but I'm afraid I have little sympathy for Margaret, who is hopelessly self-centered, priggish, and narrow-minded. It's a compelling glimpse into a period of history that I'm not that familiar with, and Philippa Gregory's interpretation of Margaret Beaufort's character does explain many of Margaret's real-life deeds, but she is not nearly as sympathetic as the protagonist of THE WHITE QUEEN, Elizabeth Woodville. Well worth a listen if you're interested in the War of the Roses, but don't expect to like Margaret very much.

32 of 33 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

You Gotta Read It...Resign Yourself

What did you love best about The Red Queen?

It's hard to say. It wasn't a book I loved. It was -- on one hand -- KIND OF interesting to read the story from Margaret Beaufort's perspective, but on the other, it isn't a particularly sympathetic one. Because it's part of a series, you really should read it, but it's not the best of them so far.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Check it off the list. Since you know how it ends, there was no real climax.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

Bianca Amato does a great job of reading a rather unimpressive book. Great affect, great interpretation...just not fantastic material.

If you could take any character from The Red Queen out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Elizabeth Woodville!! HA HA!! Sorry, but the white queen SO outshines the red one...

Any additional comments?

I love Philippa Gregory! But I have to admit that this wasn't one of her better books. I have to agree with other reviewers I read (before purchasing the book) that the events have been recounted in her other books and the perspective of Margaret Beaufort is singular (her divine duty and/or right) and uninteresting. And yet, I still assert that you have to read it as part of her Cousins War series! But don't let the worst of the reviews dissuade you...you can't NOT read it!

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

the red queen

I have read and loved all of Philippa Gregory's other books, but not this one. The main character, Lady Margaret, was a cold, whiney, bitter woman who was obcessed with regaining the throne for her son. She was so unpleasant you had no sympathy for her or her efforts.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

The Red Queen: A Novel

I wish I'd read some of the reviews before purchasing this book. I too found Margaret unbearingly priggish and whiney. This was not Gregory's best effort--perhaps because she didn't have much to work with in Margaret Beaufort. I do think it interesting that Margaret's son, Henry VII was in no hurry to marry Elizabeh of York once he became king and not only delayed marrying her but delayed crowning her queen as well...perhaps due to his mother's influence.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Slow listen

Unsympathetic lead makes this a slow listen. I really can't recommend it. I have liked other books by the author.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • mm
  • 08-06-10

Really enjoyed

Very entertaining historical novel. Loved the narrator. Will look for more by this author.

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kate
  • Gig Harbor, WA, United States
  • 08-13-10

Boring, Boring Boring

I have previously really enjoyed Philippa Gregory's novels but this lead character was so boring and unhappy that I couldn't listen to her whine for more than 3 chapters. She was the mother of Henry Tudor and her life was right in the middle of the War of the Roses so I thought the period would be made interesting... wrong. I really cannot recommend this book.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

boringly repetitive

The author seems to have run out of energy and now feels it's ok to make a novel out of one sentence: "This is my destiny, to mother a king." Waste of time & money.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

AWFUL, AWFUL, AWFUL!!!!!

This is the worst book I've ever read by Gregory. Did she write it grade school?! I enjoy novels based on historical fact, even those where a lot of "literary license" has been used. But this book is a hot mess. No where in history has Lady Margaret Beaufort ever been depicted as a whiny, vain, selfish, spiteful, narcissistic, hateful, self-righteous, delusional, bi-polar, homicidal maniac. Gregory sets the tone that Beaufort is inspired by the martyr Joan of Arc. This makes no sense because it's apparent that Margaret knows very little about the saint's life and struggles. The only difficult thing Margaret did her entire life is have a baby. All she does is "playa-hates" on the beautiful Elizabeth Woodville, calling her a slut and power-hungry whore, yet SHE's the one who is guilty of doing whatever she can to advance the son she barely even knows. She plots the downfall of others to put him on English throne, even the murder of two children, stating that it's OK "because God sanctioned it". She claims that God speaks to her personally and can't understand why she nor her son, the future King Henry VII, aren't treated like celebs since she's basically His BFF. Her hatred against and obsession with Elizabeth is pathological. Vanity, hate, and spite don't get you a sainthood, Margie! The writing is repetitive - the author will tell you the same thing 10 times as if it were the first time she said it. Gregory took what could have been a very interesting plot twist about a minor historical figure and turned it into something that's nonsensical and painful to listen to with all of the hateful whining. The narrator's delivery of this "cow patty" adds nothing positive since she sounds like she's about to burst into tears any moment. You can get a better perspective of the beginning of the Tudor dynasty from Wikipedia! Save your credit/money!

17 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Dropped into a viper pit!

It was interesting to see the conflict from the viewpoint of both sides after also reading The White Queen. Margaret definitely comes across as a cold, cunning, conniving, self-absorbed woman. Reading about British royalty is rather like being thrown into a pit of vipers!!
The story was well told and very well narrated.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful