The Coffee Pot Book Club Book Award
The King's Retribution
(Book Two of The Plantagenet Legacy)
By Mercedes Rochelle
If you read A KING UNDER SIEGE, you might remember that we left off just as Richard declared his majority at age 22. He was able to rise above the humiliation inflicted on him during the Merciless Parliament, but the fear that it could happen again haunted him the rest of his life. Ten years was a long time to wait before taking revenge on your enemies, but King Richard II was a patient man. Hiding his antagonism toward the Lords Appellant, once he felt strong enough to wreak his revenge he was swift and merciless. Alas for Richard, he went too far, and in his eagerness to protect his crown Richard underestimated the very man who would take it from him: Henry Bolingbroke.
"When I was young and powerless, they saw fit to manipulate Parliament to achieve their selfish ends. Those days are over. It's my turn, now. I mean to bring the Crown back to the splendor and magnificence it possessed in the days of Edward I—when the Crown ruled Parliament, not the other way around..."
They had demanded pardons, and he had given them for there had been no other choice. But things were different now. The son of Edward, The Black Prince, would see justice served. Richard II would have his revenge, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.
At least, Richard II had thought there was no one to stand in his way. But the Wheel of Fortune was forever turning, and fate was not done with Richard yet...
From the death of Queen Anne to the utter despair of a vanquished king, The King's Retribution: Book Two of The Plantagenet Legacy by Mercedes Rochelle is the story of the tyranny of Richard II and his subsequent fall from grace.
Confident in his newfound power, Richard is determined to right an injustice. He may have given those involved in the Lords Appellants' rebellion their pardons, but he has not forgotten such a gross betrayal. And now was the time to right that wrong. Besieged with paranoia, Richard travels along a path that will ultimately end in his demise. With her enthralling narrative, Rochelle has given us a Richard who is determined to assert his personal will upon the baronial challenges that plagued his early reign. But in doing so, Richard abuses his divine powers which leads to dire retribution seemingly from the heavens. Why did Richard do this? Rochelle goes some way to explain. Richard is left totally undone by the death of his beloved wife — he loses the one person who understands his fears and can console him. Beset with grief and desperate to gain a sense of control in his life, Richard forgoes the fragile peace that was so hard-won in order to consolidate his power. Rochelle does not give us a Richard who has lost his mind, as some historians argue, but instead one who is governed by fear which leads him down a road of forced confessions and even the murder of his uncle, Gloucester.
But that is not his only crime. Richard is seemingly out of touch with the common people, and he mismanages the country's finance. He is also apt at creating friction between the nobles, but especially between members of his family. This Rochelle describes in all its glorious yet sometimes ugly detail.
As Richard loses control over his country and his own destiny, Rochelle presents her readers with a despairing king. Richard's desperate attempts to hold onto his honour and dignity despite Henry's efforts to humiliate him was masterfully drawn. One could only feel sympathy for this dejected King as he is betrayed by almost everyone around him. And yet, with quiet dignity, Richard endures the hecklers on the streets as he is ushered into a world of uncertainty and despair.
Rochelle presents two very different sides to Richard — the paranoid statesman whose own personal bodyguard, the Chester Archers, causes disquiet and concern, but also Rochelle depicts a devoted husband. I thought Rochelle's depiction of Richard II was utterly sublime, and his desperation really drove this story forward and made it unputdownable.
They had been childhood playmates, friends. Henry Bolingbroke had even been elevated from Earl of Derby to Duke of Hereford despite his participation in the Lords Appellants' rebellion against the King. In hindsight, Richard should have executed him. What a great king hindsight would make...
Rochelle has portrayed Henry as a man who had been cruelly used. In the beginning, it seems that Richard exiled Henry for his safety with a promise that he would soon be able to return, but the truth soon becomes apparent when Henry's father, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, dies. The issue with Henry's inheritance is one that is often debated between historians — was Richard being obscenely insensitive in his handling of the inheritance? Or, was his intentions that of a monarch desperately trying to fill his coffers? Rochelle, does not paint Richard as an unsympathetic monarch to Henry's situation — it was Richard that saved Henry's life by sending him into exile in the first place — but at the same time, Richard completely misinterprets the anger that his action would cause. Why else would Richard ride off to war with Ireland if he knew how Henry would act upon hearing the news of his inheritance? What was to follow, must have come as quite the shock to Richard, and this Rochelle depicts in all its desperate disbelief.
Rochelle has portrayed Henry as a man who not only succeeds in returning from his exile when the King is otherwise occupied but also one who obtains the loyalty of Richard's most faithful noblemen. On top of this, he wins the love of the common people. Like with Richard, I thought Rochelle's portrayal of Henry was absolutely fabulous. With carefully constructed dialogue Rochelle demonstrates how Henry so easily won over the nobles to his cause. Henry insisted he did not seek the throne, but at the same time, he paves the way for his coronation! The difference between Richard and Henry is as different as night is to day. I thought the distinction between the King and the man who would be king was masterfully portrayed.
The King's Retribution: Book Two of The Plantagenet Legacy is a richly detailed and emotionally-charged tale. There is a strong sense of time and place in Rochelle's writing and an authenticity to the historical detail. The hours of research that has so obviously gone into this book is staggering, but the end result is a novel that is as enthralling as it is poignantly beautiful.
If you are looking for a new historical series about a king who unfortunately has been much maligned by history, then look no further than The Plantagenet Legacy by Mercedes Rochelle.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
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The King's Retribution
Born in St. Louis MO with a degree from University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her primary vocation. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.