While Worth's Rose of York Trilogy ("Love and War", "Fall from Grace", "Crown of Destiny") deals with the troubled years of Edward's reign through the fall of Richard III and the rise of Henry VII, Lady of the Roses sets the stage for the conflict, the entrenched factions and treacherous plots that attend a struggle for control of the kingdom, but with the added poignancy of a sheltered young woman's impetuous and successful marriage to a man forbidden by time and circumstance (Isobel Ingoldesthorpe and John Neville, brother of Richard Neville, "the Kingmaker"). Believing in their commitment, Isobel is unwavering, embracing her marriage while conscious of the price. Soon enough, the world intrudes, and with it the enmity of the great families of the realm. Given the nature of this interminable war, Isobel realizes that she may not always have her great prize, that such a love is purchased dearly.
It is Isobel's leap of faith that Worth so beautifully captures, a 15th century Romeo and Juliet prey to the indifference of a country at war. Arriving at the court of Henry VI and his queen, Marguerite d' Anjou, Isobel is essentially a Lancastrian. But when the comely Isobel sets eyes on the handsome John Neville, a Yorkist, the die is cast. Realizing it is in the queen's power to decide whom she will wed, Isobel invokes the privilege of agreeing to any match, to which Marguerite acquiesces. After much negotiation, Marguerite allows the marriage to proceed- at an exorbitant bride-price. But once married, Isobel departs Marguerite's court, carrying the queen's ring, in exchange for which she may ask a favor in time of need.
Marguerite is challenged by an increasingly popular Earl of Warwick, John's brother, the Earl earning the people's loyalty and affection. And the battles wage on between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists, John captured, saved only by Isobel's redemption of Marguerite's favor. Of such moments is Isobel's life with John defined, his divided loyalties between king and brother, the mentally unstable Henry unable to lead, bowing to his wife's decisions. With the advent of Yorkist Edward of March, history takes another turn, the York's ascendant; John's fortunes increased after years of loyalty to the crown.
Power breeds extremes, Warwick eventually at odds with the new king, Edward IV, especially after Edward's disastrous marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. As detrimental to the kingdom as Marguerite d' Anjou, Woodville, a woman from Isobel's past in the queen's court, wreaks havoc on the kingdom, demanding titles and lands for greedy relatives. Warwick finally rebels, John facing his most critical crisis of conscience, a choice between king and brother. Throughout it all, the faithful Isobel remains her husband's best friend and staunchest supporter. Unable to stem the tide of history, John is separated from Isobel forever in a final battle. A man and a woman unable to prevail over the fate of a country caught in war, John and Isobel remain trapped in the pages of history, Worth breathing new life into their in a novel of commitment that defies convention, a marriage based on love. Luan Gaines.
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