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REVIEW: A Song of Sixpence

Six months or so after launching my debut novel Antonius: Son of Rome, I joined an author support group on Twitter. What most people don't know about me is that I dreaded joining Twitter at all to begin with. And now? Twitter is probably my most valuable daily marketing tool and has led me to some very meaningful and insightful friendships with other historical fiction authors. Much of that reward has come through my support group. I now have author contacts spanning the globe--Australia, Wales, England, France, Canada, Ireland... it's remarkable. Since becoming an author, my world has shriveled and I'm reminded that we're all in this together!

One of the authors in my group is Judith Arnopp, whose historical specialty is the Tudor period. But that being said, she can answer questions about the Middle Ages, too. Among her many fancies, is her gift for designing and tailoring costumes for her re-enactment group that she founded. Judith is pretty gifted and incredible... check out her photo--she MADE that gown!

And what a tale she can spin!

I've read several of her books now, but what captivated me the most about A Song of Sixpence was her take on a character that everyone presumes dead. So without any more delay, join me in my review of this fine book and consider giving it a read!

A Song of Sixpence

Reviewed by Brook Allen

It takes a very shrewd and gifted author to create a "fiction" within historical fiction, leaving the reader pondering where exactly truth may lie and hunger for more. Judith Arnopp does just that in this stunning book. Not only is she a scholar of Tudor history, but the plot she weaves in this tale is both plausible and brilliant. Two characters dominate for most of the book: Elizabeth of York, who is forced to marry the new Tudor King Henry VII, and the "Boy", who makes a slick escape from the Tower of London and assumes his rightful place as royalty. What were the actual historical elements versus the fiction? Only God knows, but Arnopp is one heck of a storyteller who had ME convinced that her plot could have been genuine.

Elizabeth of York's family has been torn asunder and humbled by the final outcome of the Wars of the Roses. The Battle of Bosworth results in her uncle's defeat and death; Richard III has been conquered by the invading noble, Henry Tudor. And now, as the eldest daughter of the Yorkist regime, Elizabeth must accept Henry's hand in marriage, for he seeks to pacify both sides in the conflict, ending civil war.

Elizabeth has no choice in the matter. She must place England ahead of her heart. But as she becomes Henry's consort, she must both win her new husband's trust and come to terms with his imperious mother--Margaret Beaufort--a formidable, no-nonsense type, who doesn't mind placing herself in the queenly role.

Henry struggles throughout his rule with trust. Just as Elizabeth thinks she's gained his heart and mind, Arnopp shows how fickle the man may have been.

Despite becoming parents again and again, this marriage is full of tension, uncertainty, and suspicion. And there are no happy endings for either partner, for irreparable loss visits them when their heir, Prince Arthur unexpectedly succumbs to illness, paving the way for his infamous brother to take the throne.

And everybody knows who he is: Henry VIII!!!

Interwoven into this already complex world of succession, political marriage, and intrigue, comes "the Boy". Richard is his name, and he is the younger of two princes (below right) who were imprisoned in the Tower of London. Now he claims to be the sole surviving brother of Elizabeth, groomed and prepared for a coup upon coming of age. His mission? To return to England and claim the throne from Henry Tudor.

Will young Richard succeed? What will his fate be, and how will Elizabeth respond, since she is now married to Henry and mother to other heirs already in line to England's throne?

Arnopp has designed a book that is both complex and difficult to set aside. For anyone who loves fantastic historical fiction, this one's for you. I'll chuck it up to being one of my best reads this year.

All About Judith

A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in Medieval Studies.

She lives on the coast of West Wales where she writes both fiction and non-fiction based on the Medieval and Tudor periods. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women but more recently she's writing from the perspective of Henry VIII himself.

Her novels include:

A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, the Aragon Years

The Heretic Wind: the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England

Sisters of Arden: on the Pilgrimage of Grace

The Beaufort Bride: Book one of The Beaufort Chronicle

The Beaufort Woman: Book two of The Beaufort Chronicle

The King’s Mother: Book three of The Beaufort Chronicle

The Winchester Goose: at the Court of Henry VIII

A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York

Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr

The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn

The Song of Heledd

The Forest Dwellers


Judith is also a founder member of a re-enactment group called The Fyne Companye of Cambria and makes historical garments both for the group and others. She is not professionally trained but through trial, error and determination has learned how to make authentic looking, if not strictly HA, clothing. You can find her group Tudor Handmaid on Facebook. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.


*This book is available on Kindle Unlimited!

Click cover image for buy-link.

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1 Comment

Jun 15, 2022

How lovely! Thank you so much, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. There is one thing I must correct though, I didn’t make the red gown I am wearing. I bought that one, got too fat for it (or it shrunk or something) and I made myself several replacement gowns - not quite one for every day of the week but almost 😁😃 thank you again! Xx

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