My baptismal name may be Giovanna but here in my mother’s adopted country I have become plain Joan; I am not pink-cheeked and golden-haired like the beauties they admire.
I have olive skin and dark features – black brows over ebony eyes and hair the colour of a raven’s wing…
When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive …
Joanna Hickson spent twenty-five years presenting and producing News and Arts programmes for the BBC. Her first published book was a children’s historical novel Rebellion at Orford Castle but more recently she has turned to adult fiction, concentrating on bringing fifteenth century English history and some of its fascinating principal characters to life. She is married with a large family and gets inspiration from her Wiltshire farmhouse home, which dates back to her chosen period.
I love reading about women in periods of history where they’re often erased or only listed as “wife of” and I also love the Plantagenet/Tudor period, aka The War of the Roses.
So this, set during the reign of Henry VII was perfect for me.
Telling the tale of a very minor character of the period, lady-in-waiting Joan Vaux, who lives in the Tower of London, as did quite a lot of people (some still do) when it was a working fortress and garrison.
The ravens at the Tower are world famous and of the current flock I know 2 facts – there’s one called Matilda who likes to play dead to freak out her keepers, and another pair who team up to raid dustbins. I used to work with the former Keeper of the Crown Jewels who was married to a Beefeater and they lived in the Tower, which has it’s own pub!
When Joan lived there it was very different, there were soldiers stationed there (as opposed to today’s retired forces personnel who serve as the Tower’s guards) and the ravens were not well loved.
Fiercely intelligent birds, the legend says that should they ever leave the Tower England will fall.
Joan becomes the protector of these funny birds, and develops a relationship with them that displeases her husband and various other Tower dwellers.
While political intrigue roils around her and the first Tudor monarch fights to retain his throne, Joan takes on her own battle, to keep the ravens in the Tower.
I loved Joan, smart, independent, and quietly powerful. Most of the men around her are stuffy and ignorant. Which feels pretty apt, considering clever women were frowned on for much of history.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.