The Lady and the Unicorn

   Posted by: Julia Redlich   in

Isolde Martyn, The Lady and the Unicorn. Transworld Publishers (Australia) 1998.  ISBN 0 7338 0144 7

Isolde Martyn is a past chairperson of the New South Wales Branch of the Richard III Society.  She specialised in Yorkist England as part of her history honours degree at the University of Exeter in the UK, and her refusal to step outside the bounds of historical accuracy is what makes her novels exceptional.

The Lady and the Unicorn was her first novel and won the Romance Writers of Australia Book of the Year Award in 2000, and also won the Rita for the best novel awarded by the Romance Writers of America in 2000, as well as being nominated for Best Historical Novel 2000 by Romance Times.

In 1470 the Wars of the Roses are threatening to tear England apart. Margery is the beautiful ward of the powerful Earl of Warwick, known as the Kingmaker, but she is banished to a nunnery after being seduced by the famous philanderer, Edward IV.  She is determined never to let any man decide her fate again and flees to France.  However she is abducted by one of the king’s men who is intent on marrying her to further his career at court.

However the king has other thoughts.  With his brother the Duke of Clarence and Warwick conspiring against him with Louis XI of France, Edward uses Margery as his secret courier, a clever choice since no-one would suspect Warwick’s ward of spying for the House of York.

What follows is a superb tale of intrigue, deception and adventure – and Margery is in the thick of it all, wondering why her mysterious – and very handsome – husband now seems to have allied himself with Warwick and Queen Margaret of Anjou.  Can she outwit her enemies – and do they include her husband?

This is an exciting book to read, not only for the romance and action, but also because the main characters are real.  When the author first met Margery and her Richard in household documents, her further research coupled with imagination and literary skill produced a book that deserves a place on any medieval history lover’s bookshelf.

Following are some remarks Isolde made in the NSW newsletter Affinity of June 1998, when her book was just about to come out:

The novel is set in 1470 – 71 and save for a few servants and a remarkable dog, all the characters are based on real historic people.  It is the story of Margery Huddlestone, the feisty bastard daughter of the Earl of Warwick.  (Margery incidentally was one of the few women invited in her own right to the coronation of her half-sister Anne Neville and Richard III.)

Imagine, if you were brought up to despise the House of Lancaster, being caught up in Warwick and Clarence’s flight to France and the negotiations with Louis XI and Margaret D’Anjou at Amboise and Angers, and, believe me, spying for Edward IV is only half of Margery’s problems.  If you like intrigue, passion and a heroine who wants to have some control over her life, please support the Yorkist side and order the book from your local bookshop or look for it in major bookstores from 1 June.

I have to say I think it is marvellous that Transworld Australia are publishing not only historical novels by local authors, but novels that have overseas settings.  For far too long, any Australian writing about the Yorkist era have had to seek an off-shore publisher.

To find out more about the author and her books, visit Isolde’s own website.