The Thwarted Queen ~ Cynthia Haggard

Onyx Book Château is pleased to welcome Cynthia Sally Haggard, author of The Thwarted Queen to the blog today! Cynthia is here today with an insightful guest post!

Cynthia Haggard, Thwarted Queen

One of my favorite pass-times is to imagine how things would have been in the past. I like to find a comfortable seat, open my notebook, and start writing ideas down.

But ideas don’t come without a lot of preparatory work. Before I sat on the Rock of Ceres just outside the town of Enna in Sicily, I had read up on the history of Sicily, and I had read three or four historical novels to make myself familiar with both the actual history of the land as well as the issues that historical novelists have chosen to highlight. So I’d filled my head with the history of Sicily, a land not unlike my native home of England with its many conquerors, before I opened my sketch pad and wrote. What sparked my imagination was the ruined by lovely Castello di Lombardia and the rock opposite called Ceres Rock.

Sicily is sometimes called Persephone’s Isle, after the young woman who was snatched up by the God of the Underworld. Her mother Demeter (or Ceres) was so upset that the whole world experienced a kind of winter. Spring was only restored when Persephone was allowed to return. As my novel has to do with certain themes from Greek mythology, and going down into the dark is one of the things that happens to my characters, I was intrigued by Ceres rock and its proximity to the castle. How would it be, I mused, if they all lived in that castle? But the eldest, who fancied herself a sorceress ,would sneak out in the middle of the night to cast her spells upon that rock? And so I opened my notebook and sat down and filled the page with ideas. While I wrote, I listened to the sound of the birds, and I took many photos of the castle and its surrounds. And that is how my new novel came to life.

The Thwarted Queen  

Cecylee is the apple of her mother's eye. The seventh daughter, she is the only one left unmarried by 1424, the year she turns nine. In her father's eyes, however, she is merely a valuable pawn in the game of marriage. The Earl of Westmorland plans to marry his youngest daughter to 13-year-old Richard, Duke of York, who is close to the throne. He wants this splendid match to take place so badly, he locks his daughter up. The even that fuels the narrative is Cecylee's encounter with Blaybourne, a handsome archer, when she is twenty-six years old. This love affair produces a child (the "One Seed" of Book II), who becomes King Edward IV. But how does a public figure like Cecylee, whose position depends upon the goodwill of her husband, carry off such an affair? The duke could have locked her up, or disposed of this illegitimate son.

But Richard does neither, keeping her firmly by his side as he tries to make his voice heard in the tumultuous years that encompass the end of the Hundred Years War – during which England loses all of her possessions in France – and the opening phase of the Wars of the Roses. He inherits the political mantle of his mentor Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, and become’s the people’s champion. The rambunctious Londoners are unhappy that their country has become mired in misrule due to the ineptitude of a King prone to fits of madness. Nor are they better pleased by the attempts of the King’s French wife to maneuver herself into power, especially as she was responsible for England’s losses in France. But can Richard and Cecylee prevail? Everywhere, their enemies lurk in the shadows.

This book is filled with many voices, not least those of the Londoners, who forged their political destiny by engaging in public debate with the powerful aristocrats of the time. By their courageous acts, these fifteenth-century Londoners set the stage for American Democracy.

Book Information

This novel is available in a variety of ways:
1) The Thwarted Queen

2) A 4-volume set of paperbacks
The Bride Price
One Seed Sown
The Gilded Cage
Two Murders Reaped

3) A 3-volume set of paperbacks
Rose of Raby
The Gilded Cage
Two Murders Reaped

About the Author Cynthia Haggard

CynthiaSallyHaggard.jpgBorn and raised in Surrey, England, Cynthia Sally Haggard has lived in the United States for twenty-nine years. She has had four careers: violinist, cognitive scientist, medical writer and novelist. Yes, she is related to H. Rider Haggard, the author of She and King Solomon's Mines. (H. Rider Haggard was a younger brother of the author's great-grandfather). Cynthia Sally Haggard is a member of the Historical Novel Society. You can visit her website at: http://spunstories.com/ 

I received the 3-volume set of paperbacks from
virtual book tour. 


I have to say that I both loved this book and hated this book at the same time. I am so glad that another author has taken an interest in Cecylee Neville – she was one formidable woman – Duchess of York; mother of two kings of England, Edward IV and Richard III; and Queen by Right. She was definitely a fierce woman and you should have thought twice before trying to cross her.

The story is written as Cecylee is dying, she is writing her memoirs; her version of the way things went down and not history’s version. The story begins with Cecylee as a young girl of 8 right up until her death and it covers everything from the birth of all of her 13 children, through the deaths of her husband, her children including Kings Edward IV and Richard, and her grandsons (the Princes in the Tower), up until Henry VII takes over the throne of England.

The characters were absolutely wonderful – they were genuine and believable – two things that I believe make a great historical fiction novel. I loved how Cecylee was portrayed as a sympathetic character – she definitely made life a lot more difficult for herself through the actions and decisions she made, but I found this to make her character seem more realistic and every easy to relate to. I also found both the characters and their relationships to be thoroughly developed which was great. Apart from the characters, I also really enjoyed the fact that not only was this story based on meticulously researched historical facts but that Ms. Haggard explored the rumour of Edward IV’s illegitimate heritage and made it a part of the story.

Here comes the criticism however . . . although I loved how thoroughly Ms. Haggard researched her topic and characters at times the story was no longer a story but rather a history lesson. I found this to be particularly true in the third book, The Gilded Cage, I have to say that I skipped over parts in this book because it was like reading a badly written history textbook. I really hate to say this but it was boring. You are reading along, loving the fiction and all of a sudden it is just fact, fact, fact oh character talking, fact, fact, fact . . . there was no flow at times and I think that the story got confused to whether it was a fiction or a non-fiction.

Overall I did enjoy this story, minus that brief period in book 3. The characters had great personalities and the story was well written. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the War of the Roses and history in general.

Book Excerpt

Richard urged his palfrey into a gallop so that he could catch up with Gloucester, riding east to the city. What is he going to do now, thought Richard, following Gloucester along the Strand towards Saint Paul’s Cathedral. As soon as they got to the churchyard, Gloucester vaulted off his horse, threw his reins to a groom, and mounted the steps of Saint Paul’s Cross.
Richard followed.
The Londoners were enjoying themselves in the spring sunshine, it being that time of day after the main meal when people come out to pay visits, shop, and enjoy a fine afternoon stroll. In one corner of Saint Paul’s churchyard, a number of well-dressed citizens fingered the leather covers and the crisp pages of those new-fangled printed books. There were goldsmiths and silversmiths. There was a woman selling spring flowers. There was even a horse merchant, whose restless charges stamped their feet, tossed their heads, and added a pungent odor to the scene.
Just outside the door of the church stood a group of London merchants. The soft leather of their boots and gloves displayed their wealth, as did the exotic and colorful material of their robes, their jewel-encrusted collars, and the many rings on their fingers. They were outdone only by their wives, who wore as many necklaces, rings, and brooches as possible crammed onto their costumes. Richard bowed to one beldame passing by. She had so much cloth in her headdress, her husband must belong to the clothier’s guild.
As Gloucester arrived at Saint Paul’s Cross, the people immediately began to gather, separating Richard from his mentor. “Good Duke Humphrey!” they shouted. “‘Tis Good Duke Humphrey!”
Gloucester bowed.  A tapster from a nearby alehouse ran up to hand him a mug of ale.
He looks years younger, thought Richard, glancing at his friend basking in the approval of the crowd. How ironic that it is the people of England who respect him, not his aristocratic peers.
The crowd gathered around Saint Paul’s Cross, buzzing with excited anticipation as the horses neighed.
“I wonder what he’s got to say,” said the bookseller.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the flower seller. “Most of them fancy people never bother with the likes of us.”
“Duke Humphrey, he’s good,” said the horse merchant. “He talks to us. Tells us what’s going on.”
“He’s become a champion of good governance,” said a well-dressed gentleman.
Duke Humphrey held up a hand, and the crowd fell silent.
“My friends, I have come here today to tell you about a piece of treachery. Nay, I can scarce believe it myself, and if any of you had told me this, I would think I had had a bad hangover from the night before.”
Some youngsters in the crowd erupted into laughter. Their elders grew watchful and silent.
Richard accepted a tankard of beer and stood by Gloucester. He looked at the faces tilted up before him. They don’t seem overawed, he thought, sipping his beer. This country is not like France, where the common people grovel before the aristocrats. These people seem to know that their voices count for something.
Gloucester raised his hand again. “Would you believe it, but in return for Margaret of Anjou, the Earl of Suffolk negotiated a marriage settlement in which we give away Maine and Anjou to the French.”
The crowd recoiled. “No!” they shouted.
Richard grew uneasy.
“Yes, good people. Yes: I am sorry to tell you so, but there it is.”
“What does this mean for trade, sir?” asked a man, a fashionably dressed woman on his arm.
“You lose the revenues from the counties of Maine and Anjou,” replied Duke Humphrey. “You lose revenues from wine.”
“Is our wine trade going to dry up?” asked one merchant with a red nose.
“Not unless we lose Bordeaux. So far, we are just talking about Maine and Anjou.”
The crowd responded with a harsh bark of laughter.
“But I can tell you,” continued Gloucester, “that the loss of Maine and Anjou means the loss of goodly fruit.”
“No more pears!” exclaimed a young girl with golden hair hanging out from an upstairs window. “But that’s my favorite fruit.” Her high voice sailed over the noise of the crowd.
“No more Anjou pears, madam,” said Gloucester sweeping her a low bow.
“Jacinda, do not shout out of the window. It is not ladylike.” A woman with an elaborate horned headdress appeared and gently pulled the child away. “Please accept my apologies, my lord Duke,” she called down. “She is very free.”
“Do not worry, madam,” said Gloucester bowing again with a flourish. “You have a charming daughter.”
Applause and cheers greeted this remark.
“What about the landowners of Maine and Anjou, my lord?” asked a merchant dressed in fine crimson silk, rubies winking from the collar around his neck. “What about their lands and holdings?”
“A good question.” Gloucester held up his hand to still the whispers and murmurings of the crowd. “They will be obliged to give up their lands. They will be forced to come home with nothing and start afresh.”
The crowd erupted into boos and murmurs, which grew louder. Richard looked at his friend.
“I see you look puzzled, good people,” remarked Gloucester, as the restless crowd grew silent. “Let me spell out the terms of the Treaty of Tours by which our king gained a wife. By this treaty, we give up Maine and Anjou. In return, we get exactly—nothing. That’s right. Nothing. The queen did not even bring a dowry with her. Can you believe it? Can you believe that Suffolk would be so stupid, so asinine, so treacherous, as to throw away something that we gained in a fair fight for nothing in return?”
Their roar threw Richard backward. He moved closer to Gloucester. “They’re getting upset,” he hissed.
Gloucester ignored him. “And all for a queen worth not ten marks,” he remarked, holding up his tankard of ale. “I feel personally betrayed.”
“We are betrayed!” roared the crowd. “A queen worth not ten marks!” They turned and hurried down Ludgate Hill in the direction of Westminster, shouting as they went.
“What are they going to do?” asked Richard.
Gloucester chuckled. “They are going to Westminster Palace, to shout insults at the queen.”

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your review, thanks for your honesty. I found the facts in book three to be an interesting contribution. I don't know a thing about historical facts in England, so it was not only an easy read, but a nice way to learn about history. I think I would have been lost otherwise.