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December 2008: The King's Daughter by Sandra Worth

A monthly discussion on varying themes guided by our members. (Book of the Month discussions through December 2011 can be found in this section too.)
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diamondlil
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December 2008: The King's Daughter by Sandra Worth

Post by diamondlil » Fri November 28th, 2008, 8:32 pm

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Please discuss the December 2008 Book of the Month, The King's Daughter: A Novel of the First Tudor Queen by Sandra Worth in this thread.
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Post by boswellbaxter » Mon December 1st, 2008, 2:51 pm

This came into Barnes and Noble a little early, so I picked it up over the weekend. My walls were spared major damage, but only because I exerted self-control.

The main problem with this book, as with the other books by Worth that I've read, is that the major characters are either Very Good (Elizabeth of York, Richard III, Anne Neville) or Very Bad (Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, Bishop Morton). Richard III is so saintly here, in fact, that I kept waiting for him to turn water into wine. Unsubtle as these characterizations are (if Elizabeth Woodville and Margeret Beaufort had moustaches, they'd twirl them), Worth makes matters even worse by having Elizabeth of York (the narrator) and the other characters repeatedly tell the reader how good (or bad) various individuals are, just in case the reader should be so stupid as to be in any doubt ("Margaret Beaufort . . . was devil enough to inspire fervent hatred to the death"). The only relatively bright spot is Henry VII, who's not nearly as unsympathetic as Worth could have made him.

Irritatingly, Elizabeth of York repeatedly refers to the "Wars of the Roses," though the term wasn't invented until the 19th century. That's a minor irritant, though, compared to others.

Just as Worth in her first novel invented an episode where William Hastings drugs and rapes a virgin peasant girl, Worth here treats us to an episode where Elizabeth Woodville allows Henry VII to test Elizabeth of York's virginity by having sex with her before their marriage. Needless to say, the detailed author's note makes no mention of this being Worth's own invention. Yes, it's fiction, but it's the closest thing to history that some people will ever read, so there's no excuse for smearing the reputation of people who are dead and can no longer defend themselves.

Worth has a bothersome tendency to get facts wrong when they intefere with her characterizations of people as either saints or sinners. We're told, for instance, that the Countess of Warwick, Richard III's mother-in-law, was left "old, poor, and alone" during Henry VII's reign and that she resorted to the law courts to have Middleham Castle returned to her, after which Henry VII made her give it up (272). In fact, it was during Edward IV's reign that the Countess was deprived of her estates when she was declared naturally dead by Parliament; the beneficiaries of this unjust act were her sons-in-law, the Duke of Clarence and the future Richard III. After the Countess brought a petition before Parliament, her estates were restored to her in 1487 by Henry VII, who did indeed require her to sign them back over to him (with the exception of one manor). What Worth leaves out is the fact that on December 11, 1489 (Calendar of Patent Rolls 1485-94, p. 298), Henry VII gave the Countess life estates in over two dozen manors and lordships and made her principal keeper of the forest of Wychwode--not exactly grinding poverty. As for Middleham Castle, I've no idea where Worth gets the story that the Countess went to court to get it back, for it didn't belong to the Countess to begin with--it was part of her husband's Neville inheritance, entailed in the male line. Richard obtained title to it in the 1470's when George Neville, the young Duke of Bedford, the little boy who was heir to the Neville estates, was disinherited in Richard's favor. (Needless to say, this blot upon the memory of Saint Richard goes unmentioned here.) At his death, it went to the Crown. All of these land details may seem like nit-picking, but since the average reader isn't going to look for a copy of the Patent Rolls to double check the facts, it's worth pointing them out.

On the plus side, the novel's not badly written, though the prose at times threatens to climb a bit over the top. I do give Worth points, too, for not turning Henry VII into a monster, as I expected, and for actually letting him show some affection toward Elizabeth at times. It was also interesting to have a novel told from Elizabeth's perspective, though this is by no means the first novel to do so--Margaret Campbell Barnes' The Tudor Rose features Elizabeth of York, and Brenda Clarke/Honeyman's Richmond and Elizabeth, Roberta Gellis's The Dragon and the Rose, and Jean Plaidy's To Hold the Crown each feature Elizabeth and Henry.
Last edited by boswellbaxter on Tue December 2nd, 2008, 12:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: got the Honeyman title wrong
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Post by Misfit » Mon December 1st, 2008, 4:32 pm

My walls were spared major damage, but only because I exerted self-control.
:D :D :D

I think I remember now why I've always hesitated picking up her books. I'm still waiting to see if the library buys it, otherwise I'll pass.

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Post by SonjaMarie » Mon December 1st, 2008, 7:40 pm

I think I'll pass on this book as well, I had it on my BF queue but have removed it.

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Post by cw gortner » Mon December 1st, 2008, 7:48 pm

Sandra Worth is no better or worse than any of us when it comes to getting her facts straight. She's certainly more exemplary than a well-known bestselling author most of us here have read and will continue to read, though she freely alters history to suit her stories whenever she sees fit.

It bears reminding that Ms Worth writes historical fiction; i.e., she tells the story from her character's fictionalized point of view. She also interprets historical facts according to her particular set of values and beliefs, as do we all. Not one hf writer in this forum or anywhere else for that matter fails to bring some level of bias or preconceived notions to our writing: if we didn't, we'd be writing biography, where one can afford the luxury of neutrality. Because we write fiction, we have opinions, usually strong ones, about the historical people and events we write about. These opinions are what make a novel interesting, whether or not as a reader we agree on how these are presented.

I enjoy seeing people's reactions to books and appreciate differences of opinion; I also understand how facts are important and relevant, but I honestly must say I don't think most hf authors deliberately set out to make mistakes. Rather, they do the research they believe is required to tell their story and sometimes, well, they slip up. Writers, after all, are human and thus prone to error.

The errors pointed out here don't seem quite as egregious as some I've seen, or even, frankly, that I've made myself in my work. After all, I re-invented the fall of Granada to create a spectacular opening chapter, and in my book my mad queen is neither mad nor does she perform acts of necrophilia on her husband's corpse, which, according to her chroniclers, she did on a frequent basis. And I was just informed by a very savvy reader that there is an error in my afterword; I call Franceso Borja the "founder" of the Jesuit order, when in fact Ignatius Loyola is the founder and Borja became the Father General who widely expanded the Order's mission and outreach. How did I make the mistake? Simple: I forgot. In other words, I goofed. :eek:

I make it my personal code to give my fellow writers public respect, if nothing else. And as a reader, I always remember that behind every page of every book is a flesh and blood person who's spent many hours in solitude, carving time from family and friends, to write it. While I may not like what he or she has to say, and am certainly free to express my opinion, I am conscious that sometimes what I choose to say reflects more about me than the writer in question.
Last edited by cw gortner on Mon December 1st, 2008, 8:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Helen_Davis » Mon December 1st, 2008, 9:21 pm

Elizabeth of York bores the hell out of me, so I'll pass on this one as well.

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Post by michellemoran » Tue December 2nd, 2008, 3:56 am

I have to say that I really enjoyed The King's Daughter . I liked Worth's portrayal of Henry VII, who could have been characterized several different ways, and unlike Anne Boleyn, whose story is beginning to feel overdone to me, I found Elizabeth of York to be a breath of fresh air.
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Post by Carine » Tue December 2nd, 2008, 7:00 am

I know I'm certainly going to give it a go.

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Post by Divia » Tue December 2nd, 2008, 12:22 pm

I totally forgot this was the BOTM. I want to read it cause I've never read anything about Elizabeth before.
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Post by EC2 » Tue December 2nd, 2008, 4:21 pm

I've still got the first one (title escapes me) on my TBR. Started it but had to put it down after the Anne Neville 'violet orbs' (her eyes) description. I found it to be saccharine and over-written in places and very good in others. Uneven. I think a good editor listened-to would have done real wonders for the book. I didn't sling it; it's still on my TBR and at some point I may get around to the others, so I'm taking note of the discussion here from all aspects. Thanks folks :)
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