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Lady of the Roses


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Lady of the Roses -- Sandra Worth

Published by Berkley Books,
a division of the
Penguin Group (USA),
January 2008
ISBN-10: 0425219143
ISBN-13: 978-0425219140

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Lady of the Roses -- A Novel of the Wars of the Roses -- Out now from Berkely Books

A mad king A ruthless queen Two young lovers caught between

The untold story of history's real Romeo and Juliet


From “a gifted literary talent” comes a sweeping epic of defiant love, high adventure, and the resilience of the human spirit. Based on history, this is the story of young Isobel Ingoldesthorpe and John Neville, Lord Montagu, medieval ancestors of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill, who cultivate their love as violence erupts all around them in England’s Wars of the Roses . . .

During her short time as a ward in Queen Marguerite's Lancastrian court, fifteen-year-old Isobel has had many suitors ask for her hand, but the spirited beauty is blind to all but Yorkist Sir John Neville. It is nothing short of a miracle when the Queen allows Isobel's marriage to the enemy, albeit at a hefty price.

All around Isobel and John rages a lawless war. It is only their passion that can see them through the bloody march on London by the Duke of Somerset, the violent madness of Queen Marguerite, and the devolution of Isobel's meek uncle into the Butcher of England. For theirs is an everlasting love that fears not the scratch of thorns, from either the Red Rose or the White.


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reviews and awards

LADY OF THE ROSES is the winner of the Romance Reviews Today Reviewers Choice Award and the CataNetworkReviewers' Choice Award.

Worth's War of the Roses series has garnered well-deserved accolades due to the meticulous research that allows her to bring colorful historical characters and tumultuous eras to life. Rich descriptions, realistic dialogue and fascinating people thrust her story forward. Worth proves that history is as powerful as fiction.
Kathe Robin, RT Rating:4 stars, —Romantic Times Magazine

Worth deserves praise for her authenticity, rich period detail and well-crafted characters. —St. Paul Pioneer Press

“A Perfect 10!”Romance Reviews Today

Sandra Worth threads together the most bittersweet love story since Romeo and Juliet.”  J. Kaye Oldner,Revish

The engrossing love story between the Lancastrian Isobel and Yorkist Sir John Neville is one with which even the modern reader can identify. Much like the classic Romeo and Juliet, this young couple was from two different warring factions. Story Circle Book Reviews

[A]n emotionally gripping love story. [A] simply wonderful book. LADY OF THE ROSES is truly one of the best, emotionally charged all-nighters set in this time period I've read in a very long time… Its story and characters won't soon be forgotten.Romance Reader At Heart

If you liked THE BLACK ARROW by Robert Louis Stevenson, IVANHOE by Sir Walter Scott, or NEFERTITI by Michelle Moran, you'll love LADY OF THE ROSES by Sandra Worth.Enduring Romance

I haven't been this drawn into a historical fiction about an unfamiliar time period since I read The Other Boleyn Girl. Philippa Gregory should watch her back... Sandra Worth is coming on strong with her stories from the War of the Roses. Sadie's Story Lines

This intense work of art brings life to English history during the times of the War of the Roses with as much rich vibrancy as the castle tapestries that are woven into the tale. A classic love story, and one that was likely the inspiration for many others that we know and cherish, Sir John Neville and Lady Isobel Ingoldesthorpe's tale is exquisitely bittersweet. Book Review Journal

“[W]ritten so beautifully that I found myself tearful during the happy moments and downright crying through the pain. The characters came to life through Sandra Worh's words. I've mourned with them, laughed with them, and felt sorry when the story ended-- for I longed to know more of Sir John Neville and Isobel, his true Lady of the Roses.” C.P. Murphy's Random Thoughts

“Lady of the Roses” is for readers who like the history in historical fiction to be accurate.Anne Easter Smith, author of A Rose for the Crown

A gorgeous, passionate novel.Biblio Paradise

Sandra Worth has once again captured the tornado-whirling shifts of loyalty as England watches two mad women change the course of history... Lady of the Roses is an unparalleled, beautiful, dire and memorable keeper in the top ranks of historical novels! What a treat! Viviane Crystal, www.crystalreviews.com

“You will find yourself swept up with two of the most memorable characters ever explored in print, John and Isobel Neville, in one of the saddest yet most momentous events that changed British history.”The Ricardian Register, Journal of the Richard III Society (U.S.)


Chapter One, June 1456

Amid lightning, thunder, and the pelting rain of a summer storm, a castle appeared in the distance, as if in answer to my prayers. "There!" I cried, unable to restrain my great relief. "We can take refuge there, can't we, Sœur Madeleine?"

With the wind whipping her cloak around her, Sœur Madeleine turned her small, plump bulk in her saddle and, ignoring the young man-at-arms, Guy, directed herself to the squire accompanying us on our journey.

"Master Giles, you know this place that is so curious?" she inquired. Her English was so heavily laden with the accent of her native Anjou that if I didn't listen carefully, she seemed to be speaking French. But she was right about the castle. Set in an open emerald field instead of high on a hill, and more like a magnificent country mansion inviting to guests than a fortress designed to repel enemies, it made a strange sight with its hexago– nal redbrick towers, large windows, and tall, narrow frame.

"I believe it belongs to Lord Ralph Cromwell, Sister," replied Master Giles, his horse's hooves sucking in and out of the sticky, mud-mired road. "I heard he built a castle of red brick in Lincolnshire called Tattershall."
"And this lord . . . which is his allegiance, the Red Rose or the White?"

Master Giles threw Sœur Madeleine a small, sardonic laugh. "No man can be sure, Sister— 'tis said Lord Cromwell changes color with the wind. He was King Henry's lord chancellor back in the thirties, but a few years ago he quarreled with the Lancastrians and wed his niece to a Yorkist lord. After the Battle of St. Albans, I heard he quarreled with the Yorkists and now considers himself a loyal Lancastrian adherent of the queen's."

Sœur Madeleine gave a horrified gasp. "Such a man is a traitor! In France we would know what to do with him."

From what I could see of Master Giles's face, hidden between his collar and his sodden wool hat, I could tell his thoughts: This was England, and a good thing too. Even the French queen who had wed our King Henry couldn't change that.

"Perhaps we should not stop," Sœur Madeleine said suddenly, pulling up so sharply her horse almost lost its footing in a muddy puddle and snorted in protest. "Mon dieu, he may have changed back to York, and I will not take 'ospitality from a traitor!"

Master Giles and Guy rested their gazes on me, and their expressions told me I was the only one who could avert this setback. If we passed up this castle, we had no assurance of finding a hamlet with lodging for the night, and might well find ourselves sleeping under a tree. Wet and shivering with cold in the stinging rain, I too had been excited at the thought of a hot meal and a change of clothes. Now all stood in jeopardy. Fond as I was of Sœur Madeleine, she could be quite impractical. Fortunately, thanks to the kindly, almost maternal interest she had taken in me during the few weeks we had known one another, I had been able to use my influence with her for the benefit of our entire little party on the long journey from Marrick Priory in Yorkshire down to London. I took a breath before I spoke.

"Sœur Madeleine, Lord Jesus said that sinners who find the true way are saved, so if this Yorkist lord who strayed from the Red Rose has now returned to the righteous fold of Lancaster, then God will forgive him— and surely we should, too?"

Sœur Madeleine turned her face up to Heaven, as if to weigh the strength of both God's forgiveness and the storm. " Alors, mon enfant, you 'ave much wisdom for your fifteen years— there can be no other reason why God has put this place into our path in weather so formidable. He must intend us to stay here for the night, chère Isabelle." As if to seal her approval, she gave my name an extra flourish so that it sounded French.

Losing no time, Master Giles spurred his horse and sped in the direction of the castle. I knew he had rushed off so that Sœur Madeleine couldn't change her mind again, and I galloped my palfrey after him as best I could on the muddy highway. Guy, the young man–at–arms whose horse pulled my coffer, followed too, but, slowed by the small cart he dragged, his horse kept floundering in the deep puddles and he was the last to reach the castle gate.

As I drew alongside Master Giles, someone peered from the watchtower and the cry came down, "Who goes there?"

"The queen's ward, Lady Isobel Ingoldesthorpe, and her guardian, Sister Madeleine of Marrick Priory. We seek refuge for the night," Master Giles said, his face dripping with rain as he looked up.

The portcullis creaked open. I cantered my palfrey into the shelter of the castle gateway and dismounted with Master Giles's help. The porter came out of the guardhouse, and I smiled my thanks.

"You're fortunate, my good people," he said. "You'll find safe haven here with my lord Cromwell, whether ye be Lancastrian or Yorkist."

"You have Yorkists sheltering here this night?" Sœur Madeleine exclaimed.

A crash of thunder drowned out the man's reply to this dangerous question, and I seized the chance to distract everyone by pretending to faint. Sœur Madeleine and the porter rushed to my aid.

"Breathe deeply, my dear," advised Sœur Madeleine. I did as she suggested.

"Good that you came when you did," said the porter. "The young lady is in need of rest, and the storm is worsening."

As if Heaven decided to help us, the rumbling grew louder and the driving rain poured faster as he spoke. But Sœur Madeleine returned to the subject of Lord Cromwell.

"Is your lord the same Lord Cromwell who served King Henry and our gracious queen Marguerite d'Anjou as chancellor?" asked Sœur Madeleine, her tone less demanding now. I held my breath.

"The same," he replied. "So, where are you headed?" he asked pleasantly, handing the horses over to two young, damp boy helpers.

"To court, sir," Sœur Madeleine said with a haughty look. "I am Sœur Madeleine of the Benedictine Order of the Abbey Notre–Dame de Wisques, and my charge here is Lady Isobel Ingoldesthorpe, ward of Queen Marguerite d'Anjou. Her father was the loyal Lancastrian knight Sir Edmund Ingoldesthorpe of New– market, Cambridgeshire, and her mother was the true Lancastrian Lady Joan Tiptoft of Cambridgeshire, both deceased, God rest their souls." She made the sign of the cross, pursed her lips, and lifted her chin in challenge.

I gave the porter a quick smile to melt the coldness of Sœur Madeleine's reply and bowed my head to hide my thoughts. Contrary to what Sister had just said, my father was no dyed–in–the–wool Lancastrian. In order to avoid fighting for the Lancastrians, he had spent most of his adult life not answering the king's many summonses, then explaining his actions and paying for expensive pardons. "A corrupt lot!" was how he'd described the French queen and her favorites, who ruled the land during King Henry's frequent illnesses. But such talk was treasonous, and he had been careful not to let anyone suspect his Yorkist sympathies. I forced back the memory and, throwing off my wet hood, shook out my hair. I noticed that the porter's gaze went to my face and lingered there. Sœur Madeleine noticed too. "You are bold, sir," she snapped. "I hope your lord has better manners than you."

The man flushed in apology. "Aye, Sister, have no fear. He is a true knight and well he knows how to treat a lady. Pray, follow me."

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