Faithful Traitor: The Story of Margaret Pole by Samantha Wilcoxson

Full disclosure: I am friends with the author, Samantha Wilcoxson.  She asked me to read a proof copy of this novel in the knowledge that I would give her a fair and honest review, for which I was more than happy to agree.

Faithful Traitor is both a standalone novel and a sequel to Wilcoxson’s previous work, Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York.  This one picks up shortly after the events of the first novel, continuing the story of the Tudors through the eyes of those strong women who otherwise don’t normally get the spotlight in our modern time.  Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, is commonly referred to as the last of the Plantagenet dynasty.  Having lived through the events of the civil war that broke her family line apart, this story focuses in large part on how she and those around her dealt with the upheaval caused by Henry VIII’s Great Matter.

Perhaps the easiest way to review this book is to say that if you read Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, you already know what to expect from this one.  If you’re new to this author, here’s what you can expect.  The storytelling and characterizations are subtle and evenly paced, just as in the previous novel.  It draws you in as if by invite with the allure of the Tudor court, and then it’s such an easy and steady read that you’re done before you know it even if you read it in bite-size segments.  At least, that’s how it happened to me.  As with Elizabeth of York, the reader gets to know Margaret Pole and how she fits into the grand scheme of things.  She comes across as dignified, possessing of an inner matriarchal strength, though hers is a very different and self-assured manner that comes from a lifetime of noble station.  The characters that fill in the story around her lock into place in such a way that the story becomes far more intimate than in many stories of the Tudor world.  For example, rather than focusing on the Great Matter and how it affects England, this and other events within the tale are explored in how they affect the family first.  It’s perhaps one of the few times where you’ll read about this with the understanding that Henry and Katharine of Aragon aren’t in the spotlight.  That little shift in perspective away from them makes a world of difference.

The Tudor era is an alien world compared to what we know today, and it’s easy to get caught up in the excesses at the expense of the personalities involved, and vice versa.  If anything, centuries of sensationalism have only made that rift wider, with many novelists playing up to that lurid bait to attract readers, often at the expense of the history and the people who made that history.  That’s not the style on display here.  Instead, this is a collection of character portraits captured in honest glimpses.  There is no need to trump up the history as it speaks for itself.  Here, characters that are often overlooked in other tellings are given a chance to speak for themselves as even Henry VIII, who casts a looming shadow over everything, must reconcile the fact that this is not his moment to shine.  Not this time.  The result is a solid and satisfying read that adds a little something extra for those who find continued fascination in the Tudor story.

As this era and its outrages are a never-ending source of inspiration, I’ll trust that there are more stories in this series to tell.  I was my privilege to have read this one in advance of its debut.  Thank you, Samantha.  Best wishes on the release.

I’m ready for the next one when you are.

4 stars

Want to connect with the author?  Samantha Wilcoxson can be found here:

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