A Rose for the Crown: A Novel by Anne Easter Smith | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
A Rose for the Crown: A Novel

A Rose for the Crown: A Novel

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by Anne Easter Smith

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In A Rose for the Crown, we meet one of history's alleged villains through the eyes of a captivating new heroine -- the woman who was the mother of his illegitimate children, a woman who loved him for who he really was, no matter what the cost to



In A Rose for the Crown, we meet one of history's alleged villains through the eyes of a captivating new heroine -- the woman who was the mother of his illegitimate children, a woman who loved him for who he really was, no matter what the cost to herself.

As Kate Haute moves from her peasant roots to the luxurious palaces of England, her path is inextricably intertwined with that of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III. Although they could never marry, their young passion grows into a love that sustains them through war, personal tragedy, and the dangerous heights of political triumph.

Anne Easter Smith's impeccable research provides the backbone of an engrossing and vibrant debut from a major new historical novelist.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Inspired by the historical record of Richard III's bastard children, Smith invents a spirited, "tawny-eyed" mistress for the 15th-century king in her sweeping debut. Kate Bywood is plucked from her peasant life at the age of 11 to join the household of her mother's noble cousins, the Hautes, as companion to her timid cousin, Anne. A brief, unwilling marriage to an older, wealthy merchant leaves Kate a young widow with a considerable fortune. A second marriage to George, an opportunistic Haute cousin who prefers the stable boy to Kate, leaves her yearning for love. In a chance encounter, she meets Richard of Gloucester, and the ensuing secret romance is filled with the passion and intimacy her marriage lacks. George is killed during an attack in the forest, and Kate bears Richard three children. The narrative flies when the lovers are together, but once Richard marries Anne Neville, and he and Kate are separated for long stretches, the story loses its spark. Readers hungry primarily for romance may also tire of Smith's details about the complicated internecine rebellions and rivalries among pretenders to the throne. Nevertheless, this story fills in some historical gaps and conjures a winning heroine. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A humble farmer's daughter, Kate Bywood has no idea that her life's path will become entwined with that of one of England's most controversial kings. As she matures from a lovely child into a beautiful woman, Kate learns hard lessons about life and love; widowed and then remarried, she finds herself trapped in a sham of a marriage. But then she meets the young Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III), and they begin a passionate love affair that produces three illegitimate children. In her first book, writer and musician Smith has produced a vibrant story full of careful historical detail and well-developed characters. More than just retelling historical events, Smith creates an empathetic and fascinating heroine in her own right. As Kate witnesses the monumental events that take place at the highest levels, the reader becomes engrossed in her story. Even more fleshed out than Robin Maxwell's To the Tower Born: A Novel of the Lost Princes, this novel is highly recommended to all public libraries.-Anna M. Nelson, Collier Cty. P.L., Naples, FL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Remarkably assured debut spins a romantic yarn around England's much-maligned King Richard III. Born in 1451 to respectable but simple farmer folk, Katherine Haute is adopted by aristocratic cousins as a child. Her further rise is ensured by her remarkable good looks (she has striking, golden eyes). Wed at the tender age of 14, Kate is a wealthy widow at 16. She marries again, this time for love, which turns out to be misplaced, and finds her true match in an adulterous liaison with Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the future king. Contrary to the Shakespearean image of Richard as a hunchbacked and murderous schemer, Smith depicts him as a handsome knight and faithful lover to the headstrong Kate. From his bed, and via the careers of her relatives, she witnesses the turbulent final years of the Wars of the Roses. In Kate, Smith has created a likable heroine who easily survives the plague of cliches endemic to historical romance. The story flags only as it nears its tragic conclusion. The author is perhaps too scrupulously true to her sources in the use of names; every man not called Richard is a Henry, wed to a Margaret or a Katherine, who will inevitably bear a baby Richard. But these are minor deficits in a delightful, confident novel that should be a favorite with lovers of the genre. A strong new voice in the field of historical romance.

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London, 1491

Traitors!" shrieked an old crone from the midst of a large crowd swarming around the base of the crude platform in the Smithfield marketplace. Her voice joined the cacophony of cries of those selling pies, ale and trinkets; of neighbors hailing neighbors; and here and there coarse, lewd laughter. Every now and again, an agonized scream emanated from the scaffold, followed by wild cheers from hundreds of leering faces. Acrid smoke hung like a stifling mantle over the square.

Half hidden on a stone ledge behind an abutment, a widow shielded her eyes from the scene.

"Is it finished, my son?" she whispered to the young man next to her. The stench overpowered her -- a sickening mix of burnt flesh, spilled blood, singed hair and hundreds of sweaty, unwashed bodies. It was like nothing she had ever smelled, and her stomach heaved.

Her son, who was less squeamish, stood on tiptoe and stared in fascinated horror at the grisly spectacle. "Nay, Mother. There is one more nearing the scaffold." He turned his head to look at her, his chestnut hair a mirror of what hers once had been, and saw her pain. "I should take you from this place," he said with concern. "'Tis not seemly that you bear witness to such cruelty. Why are we here?"

"How is the last one, Dickon? Is he young? Do they call his name?" He did not have a chance to answer.

"Death to the traitor! Death to the traitorous bastard!" shouted a man at the front of the crowd.

"Why, 'tis Richard's bastard. 'Tis John of Gloucester. Why were we not told?" a large man called to the captain in charge of the prisoners. The soldier shrugged and turned away. "A king's son should have a private execution. 'Tis customary," the man grumbled.

A moment of silence followed as the surprising information was passed back. Many in the crowd were puzzled. They had no quarrel with John. They had come to witness the death of three men accused of treason. King Henry seemed bent on purging his kingdom of anyone he believed a threat to him.

"What treason has John committed?" asked another man. "And who saw the trial?"


"Too close to Richard for comfort," yelled a woman near the widow, and many laughed, relieved to have the tension broken.

But the onlookers were no longer concerned with past transgressions, only with present consequences. They had come to see three men dispatched by the most grisly method of execution: hanged until almost dead, taken down, their entrails ripped from them and burned, and finally hacked into quarters. The heads would be set upon London gate, a warning to all prospective traitors. That one of these condemned turned out to be royal -- albeit a bastard -- was all the more titillating. Out for blood, the crowd's hush gave way to howls of derision for the third prisoner. Surging forward, it met a wall of soldiers, who kept them from tearing the calm, dark-haired man to pieces before the hangman and disemboweler could do their work.

The son of dead King Richard was given the last rites at the base of the scaffold, a few paces from the drawn and quartered remains of another so-called traitor to Henry, the new king. He mounted the stairs and was led forward on the platform to the last noose. The crowd pelted him with clods of earth, rotten vegetables and the occasional stone until the hangman held up his hand for it all to stop. John looked out on the expectant faces in front of him and acknowledged the hate in them. A mere eight years earlier, these same faces were smiling and cheering at him and the brightly colored cavalcade on its way to his father's coronation. Now they stared at him, anticipating a cry for mercy or an admission of treachery. He was searching the crowd in vain for one friendly face when something made him look at a woman standing on a low ledge, her hand tightly entwined with that of a young man with chestnut hair. Her hood had fallen back, revealing a sad face with tired eyes.

The ugly masses melted into memories of long ago: a fire-lit solar where a voice like an angel lulled him with a song about knights, ladies and love; tawny eyes anxiously watching him sweat out a childish fever in her luxurious tester bed; warm arms holding his six-year-old body close on a summer day when the air was filled with farewells; and more recently, a touch of her hand briefly through the prison grille when she had come for the last time.

"Mother!" The single word came as a groan, and shameless tears welled.

The woman heard his cry and reached out her hand to him, not heeding the danger. He averted his eyes, afraid of implicating her.

"He cries for his mother, the baby!" shouted one of King Henry's plants in the throng, eliciting more cruel guffaws from those near him. A few in the crowd turned to stare curiously at the woman in the black cloak. She instantly let her arm drop. It was as though she had heard a silent plea from the prisoner, and before the crowd's interest became a threat, she got down from her ledge and, still clutching the young man's hand, ran down an alley away from the smell, the jeers and those haunting gray-blue eyes.

When she was away from the sight and sound of the scene, she stopped to take a breath, tears streaming down her face. Dickon stared at her. The errant wisps of hair around her widow's wimple were white, and her forty-year-old face was lined with suffering. She who had looked after him now needed his care. His mother was growing old.

"Mother, why are you so distressed? Why did we have to attend?" he asked again, taking her shoulders and giving them a gentle shake.

She looked full into his eyes. "Because he is my son."

Dickon's jaw went slack. "Your son? But...I do not understand. I am your son!" His strong chin jutted forward, reminding her so much of his father that she choked. He took her arm. "The air has addled your wits. Come, sit down, and I will find you refreshment."

Dickon led her to a stone bench in deserted Cheapside. With no one to stop them, dogs roamed in and out of open doors, mangy cats ranged rubbish heaps looking for scraps, and a rat scuttled across the street. The sun glinted off the puddles of sewage all along the wide thoroughfare.

There can be no greater grief than a mother's, the woman thought, her head in her hands, remembering, too, the death of her daughter from the sweating sickness not six years since. And such a death as this...Her sobs came harder.

"Dear God, I pray you took him quickly!" she called to the heavens, as Dickon stood by, perplexed. She looked down at the whitened skin at the base of one of her fingers and prayed that the missing ring had bought John death by strangulation from the hangman before the disemboweler did his work. Ah, Richard! I hope with all my heart your precious gift has helped our son heavenward with little pain. Of all its uses, this must be the crown.

After a while, the woman allowed herself to be led, as if in a trance, the short distance to where the Cheap Cross marked the entrance to the Mermaid Inn. Once through the courtyard and in the safety of their chamber, Dickon washed her face and hands and made her lie on the bed to rest.

"Please try and sleep, Mother. I will be out in the courtyard if you need me."

"Nay, Dickon. I pray you, do not leave me!" Her tone was urgent and her eyes implored him to stay. "There is much I must tell you, and now is a good time. I cannot bear to be alone. Come and sit by me, my son." She patted the bed and took his hand, already calloused from stoneworking. She held it to her cheek.

"John of Gloucester is...was my son." She saw the disbelief in his look. "Aye, he was your brother. Bear with me, Dickon, and I will tell you all."

She tore her eyes from his troubled face and looked towards the window, not knowing where to start, her thoughts still with the scene at Smithfield. She knew she owed him the truth after all this time.

Dickon stroked her hair, hating to see the tears that flowed unheeded down her cheeks. Why was he surprised? His mother had suddenly come to claim him when he was thirteen, a little time after the new King Henry had taken the throne. Until then he had believed she was his aunt. She had never given him a satisfactory explanation for all their years apart, and it had taken him a long time to love and accept her as his mother. But now the mystery was deepening, and he was almost afraid to know more.

Thus they sat, mother and son, both lost in their own thoughts, as a bird's fluting warble began in a tree in the central courtyard.

The birdsong awoke something in her. He saw her eyes soften, her mouth curve into a smile as she whispered, "Listen, Dickon! I can hear a blackbird."

Copyright © 2006 by Anne Easter Smith

Meet the Author

A native of England, Anne Easter Smith has lived in the United States for more than forty years. She was the features editor at a newspaper in New York State and now lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, with her husband, Scott. You can visit her website at AnneEasterSmith.com.

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