Author feature: Blood and Roses by Catherine Hokin

By | April 27, 2016

1460 The English Crown – a bloodied, restless prize.

The one contender strong enough to hold it? A woman. Margaret of Anjou: a French Queen in a hostile country, born to rule but refused the right, shackled to a King lost in a shadow-land.

When a craving for power becomes a crusade, when two rival dynasties rip the country apart in their desire to rule it and thrones are the spoils of a battlefield, the stakes can only rise. And if the highest stake you have is your son? 

You play it.

One of the great joys of being part of Book Connectors – the wonderful Facebook group for authors and bloggers – is the number of exciting new authors I’ve had the privilege of “meeting”. I’m delighted to welcome author Catherine Hokin to Being Anne today, to tell us more about Blood and Roses, the story of Margaret of Anjou and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses. More detail about the book later, but over to Catherine first, to share a few of her favourite things…

I write about strong women. In my blog and short stories and my debut novel Blood and Roses, I explore what makes women perceived as powerful or ‘dangerous’ tick.  

The strong woman in Blood and Roses is Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482), wife of Henry VI of England and a key player in the Wars of the Roses. These are some of my favourite things about her…

Shakespeare demonised her…

I have a mixed relationship with the Bard: I love Macbeth; Much Ado About Nothing is perfectly named; if you stick David Tennant in any of them, I’m there. Shakespeare’s not great at women (the ban on female performers can’t have helped) and much of the ‘Histories’ is obviously propaganda. Even allowing for that, his depiction of Margaret is so over-the-top it’s almost a caricature: despite contemporary accounts describing her as a “great and strong-laboured woman”, Shakespeare presents Margaret as “a foul wrinkled witch’, a ‘hateful with’red hag’ and has her wandering round clutching the severed head of her supposed lover the Duke of Suffolk like a medieval Mrs Rochester.

Why is this a favourite thing? Because first it intrigued me (what kind of a woman could inspire such vilification) and then it annoyed me. This portrayal has stuck, irrespective of facts and contemporary accounts. Margaret maddened people, and continues to do so. I was hooked.

Motherhood was central to her character and she was a bit flawed…

The relationship between Margaret and her only son Edward has been widely dissected. There are questions over his father – I have thoughts on that, you’ll have to read the novel – and also speculation that the relationship was in some way incestuous. Clearly that is madness and just another stick to beat a powerful woman with. Margaret was intensely ambitious and that ambition came to centre on her son. Raising a strong son and letting him go, accepting he will challenge you as much as love you is hard – she got some of it right and some of it desperately wrong. She was human.

She was passionate…

Whether it was raising a Scottish army (not a great plan) or a French one (not a successful plan) or accepting shifting allegiances with a pragmatic eye if they would help her cause, Margaret would do anything to keep her claim to the throne alive. She made good decisions as often as bad ones but she was stubborn and bloody-minded (sometimes literally) and she nearly won…

Margaret of Anjou: difficult, dangerous, fascinating. A few of my favourite things.

Thanks Catherine – that was fascinating! Anyone fancy a little more detail? Our pleasure… 

Portraying the dynastic struggles of the Wars of the Roses as a medieval House of Cards, debut novelist Catherine Hokin re-interprets the story of Margaret of Anjou as a feminist re-telling of one of the bloodiest periods of English history. In a powerful revision of a woman frequently imagined only as the shadowy figure demonised by Shakespeare, Blood and Roses examines Margaret as a French Queen in a hostile country, born to rule but refused the right, as a wife trapped in marriage to a man born to be a saint and as a mother whose son meets a terrible fate she has set in motion. As Margaret desperately tries to stave off the judgement of history by writing her own truth—a desire she knows is almost certainly doomed – she unfolds a web of intrigue, shifting alliances and secrets and reveals herself as a woman forced to play the highest stakes to pull a throne from the spoils of the battlefield.

A key issue for historians has been the relationship between Margaret of Anjou and her husband Henry IV (who suffered from what has been described as narcolepsy, resulting in long periods of what are best described as coma) and the paternity of her son, born 8 years into what was a seemingly barren marriage. Blood and Roses offers a solution to the paternity question rooted in Margaret’s political acumen and her relationship with Jacquetta Woodville – a friendship which ended in a betrayal that has never been fully explored.

This is a novel about power: winning it, the sacrifices made for it and its value. It is also a novel about a woman out of her time, playing a game ultimately no one can control.

About the author

Catherine is a Glasgow-based author whose fascination with the medieval period began during a History degree which included studies into witchcraft, women and the role of political propaganda. This kick-started an interest in hidden female voices which resulted in her debut novel, Blood and Roses. The novel brings a feminist perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses, exploring the relationship between Margaret and her son and her part in shaping the course of the bloody political rivalry of the fifteenth century.  

Catherine also writes short stories – she was 3rd prize winner in the 2015 West Sussex Writers Short Story Competition and a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition. She regularly blogs as Heroine Chic, casting a historical, and often hysterical, eye over women in history, popular culture and life in general. She is profiled in the March 2016 edition of Writing Magazine. For 2016 she has been awarded a place on the Scottish Book Trust Author Mentoring Programme to develop her second novel. In her spare time she listens to loud music, watches far too many movies and tries to remember to talk to her husband and children.

Catherine has an excellent website and blog, and you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.