Wife. Mother. Politician. Traitor. Fighter. Survivor.
The word is a spark. They can start a fire with it, or smother it in their fingertips.
She chooses to start a fire.
You are born high, but marry a traitor’s son. You bear him twelve children, carry his cause and bury his past.
You play the game, against enemies who wish you ashes. Slowly, you rise.
You are Cecily.
But when the king who governs you proves unfit, what then?
Loyalty or treason – death may follow both. The board is set. Time to make your first move.
I love historical fiction so I was delighted to grab a spot on the blogtour celebrating publication of Cecily, which has been causing quite a stir on social media. I enjoy reading and TV dramas about the Tudors and War of the Roses and this book takes us deep into this timeframe in history. Thank you to Georgia at Viking Books for the proof copy of the book
Truthfully it took me a while to locate Cecilly in this period and I would have found a ‘Cast List’ helpful at the start of the book. There are a lot of characters here, some familiar, some less so and unless you are a history buff it could be hard to keep track. But what was key to this story was the strength of Cecilly, bringing to mind the phrase, ‘behind every successful man…’ Cecilly Neville really is a force to be reckoned with. Growing up a noblewoman she married Richard 3rd Duke of York and gave birth to 12 children, 5 of whom died young. 2 of her sons went on to become Kings – Edward IV and Richard III; battling hard to conclude the War of the Roses.
This was very much Cecilly’s story though, living as the wife to a Duke, in and out of favour with the King throughout his life, it was Cecilly who plotted with her husband to ensure their safety, and ultimately to manouvre for the throne, paving the way for her sons progression. The marriage is portrayed as loving although both recognise their duties, born of their status, plus their threat due to their lineage to the throne. I was struck by how much was at stake, with friends and family fickle in their loyalities depending on who was currently in favour or who was seen as most powerful at any given time.
I was also struck on the role of marriage and the alignments this could forge, but again, as evidenced by Cecilly’s story the loyalty of a woman to her husband and his family at the exclusion of her own when required, this was noteworthy in Cecilly’s relationships with her sisters and daughters.
This was a detailed and rich book which I enjoyed a lot. This historical period is well documented and we know lots about Henry VIII, Richard III and Edward IV and ‘mad king’ Henry VI, so it was refreshing to read about this strong woman, described by the author as a business woman of her time – navigating the fragile path her family walked between success and treachery.
I would definitely recommend Cecilly, it has left me wanting to read more about these historical figures and this era. A marker of great historical fiction I think!
About the Author
Annie Garthwaite grew up in a working-class community in the north-east of England. A school-girl interest in medieval history became a lifelong obsession with Cecily Neville, so, at age fifty-five, she enrolled on the Warwick Writing MA programme. Three years later, this extraordinary novel is the result. During a thirty-year international business career, she frequently found herself the only woman at the table, which gave her valuable insights into how a woman like Cecily might have operated. She lives with her partner near the Yorkist stronghold of Ludlow.
This is a blogtour, so do check out what others are saying about Cecilly and make sure you share lots on social media! As always thanks for reading.