The legacy of King Henry VIII has always fascinated me, but I knew very little about the earlier accounts of the Tudor dynasty. Thus, I selected Owen: Book One of the Tudor Trilogy by Tony Riches to learn more about how the Tudor Dynasty was established. The story of Owen, the great-grandfather of Henry VIII, is as fascinating as the tales about the legendary king. Told in the first-person perspective of Owen, the story begins in 1422 when he first meets his new mistress, Queen Catherine of Valois, the young widow of King Henry V. The queen’s young son, Harry (Henry VI), is crowned King of England and France. Nobles responsible for the young king’s upbringing tightly control the queen’s life and her influence on her son. Owen, serving as the Keeper of the Wardrobe, loyally serves and befriends Queen Catherine and gains her trust. Rumors of Catherine’s affair with the 2nd Duke of Somerset prompts a parliamentary statute that forbids her to remarry until her son comes of age. Soon after, Catherine and Owen fall in love and secretly marry in the backdrop of political turmoil that ultimately leads to the War of Roses.
Author Tony Riches has masterfully written a poignant love story narrated by Owen in the present tense. The moment-by-moment narrative helps the reader more actively engage with Owen’s life journey. The story is rich with vivid descriptions and natural dialogue that highlights Owen’s wit and cleverness. Although his childhood has been shattered by the loss of his Welsh noble parents and heritage, Owen becomes the unlikely second husband to Queen Catherine and the father of her children. Their secret love and marriage have tragic consequences in the backdrop of the War of Roses. Yet Owen’s firstborn son, Edmund, ultimately becomes the father of King Henry VII, the first monarch in the Tudor Dynasty.
Owen: Book One of the Tudor Trilogy is one of the best historical fiction novels I’ve read this year. I highly recommend this book to historical fiction readers, particularly those interested in the Tudor Dynasty.