The White Queen by Philippa Gregory, begins a new series, The Cousin’s War, in which each book focuses on an important woman who had a pivital role in England’s War of the Roses.

The White Queen tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, a recent widow with young children, who catches the eye of the young Kind Edward IV.  Elizabeth then marries him in a secret ceremony and becomes queen.  Soon thereafter, the King leaves to fight a battle against his brother, in which the winner will be declared the rightful King of England.

Years later, Elizabeth is caught in the middle of the long standing war and makes drastic decisions as a mother and as a queen.  Her most difficult decision concerned her two sons whose fate as the “princes in the tower,” has baffled historians for centuries.  Philippa Gregory’s book seamlessly weaves historical fact with a fictional but personable account of medieval life in the first person. This fascinating book portrays the epic battles for power, treason, humanity and the dynamics of a royal family.

What’s the first image that comes to mind when you think of Queen Victoria? I bet it’s of a photograph of her as an old woman, dressed in black widow’s weeds with a glum look on her face. With that indelible image, it’s easy to forget that she was once a young woman of 17 who loved to dance and was falling in love. The Young Victoria brings the early years of Queen Victoria’s life – just before and after her coronation – brilliantly alive.

Kept isolated and under tight control throughout her childhood by her mother, Victoria was poorly prepared to rule what was then the richest country in the world. Her mother’s adviser, Sir John Conroy, tried to force Victoria to sign a regency document allowing him to rule through her, but Victoria, showing surprising spunk and determination, refused. Just six weeks after her 18th birthday, King William died and she became Queen. Now dependent on various politicians for guidance, she found herself turning more and more to her cousin Albert.

Planned by their uncle that they should eventually marry since they were babies, Victoria and Albert did the nearly unthinkable and fell in love. They made a nearly perfect team, complimenting each others strengths, and together ruled England for 20 years until Alberts death. Victoria mourned him for another 40 years.

The Young Victoria is a sumptuous production with superb acting, beautiful settings and gorgeous costumes (which won numerous awards including an Oscar) While the screenplay fudges on some historical details, it is overall accurate, and it is especially evocative of one of the great romances of all time.