The Red Queen is part of Phillipa Gregory "Cousin's" series, about the War of the Roses period of English history. As you may recall, I read and reviewed the first in the series, The White Queen, some months back. That book was the lusty tail of Elizabeth Woodville, a supposed witch and wife of King Edward, the first York king. The Red Queen tells the tail of Margaret Beuford, the mother of Henry Tudor, who eventually became King Henry VII, and the first monarch of the tudor dynasty. It is a much less lusty tail, as Margaret is portrayed as a celibate woman obsessed with the Church and advancing her son's claim to the thrown. I thought this book was less of a fun read than The White Queen, but it still delivered that Phillipa Gregory punch - a trashy romance/adventure disguised as historical fiction. Sometimes something light is needed. As soon as I read the title of the book, and in light of the season, I knew I wanted to try the British "Summer Pudding" dessert. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a fail - maybe I didn't use enough berries (if I used any more I would have had to take out a second mortgage), but I just didn't get it. Kind of a gloppy mess. But I will pass along the recipe and maybe you will have better luck.
The Red Queen fits right in to the Phillipa Gregory formula - a female figure in British history struggles with the drama and challenges of her time. While it is a formula, I do always love a Phillipa Gregory book - I am always drawn in immediately and even though the books are not necessarily unique in their style, I do feel like I learn a lot about European history when I read them. I often spend time after i read the book on Wikipedia looking up the real stories of the people in the books, and Gregory is always faithful to the history, if the stories behind the actual historical events are her creation. This book definitely was a little different than many of the Gregory books because sex was such a small part of it. Margaret Beauford grew up idolizing Joan of Arc, and her greatest wish was to become a nun. Instead, she was married off to an older man when she was only 12 or 13. She suffered a hellish childbirth at 13, her son Henry her only child. Her first husband, a Edmund Tudor dies and before long she is married off again to an older man. Throughout her second marriage, to a man with loyalties to the York's rather than the Lancaster (Margaret is a key Lancaster heir), she has a chaste love affair with her brother in law, Jasper Tudor, who is the guardian of her son. Margaret's entire life is devoted to scheming ways to get her son to the thrown. Most of the events in the The Red Queen are the same events in The White Queen, but told from the Lancaster rather than the York perspective. While I thought perhaps the The White Queen was too much of a swooning romance novel, I missed a lot of the mysticism and lust of that novel here. This was a dependable Gregory novel, but not one of her better ones.
Adapted from New York Times Cookbook
I don't know what I did wrong here, I think the bread was too think perhaps? Not enough berries? Maybe I am just not a summer pudding person. Will share anyway in case you are a summer pudding person.
2 pounds mixed berries (I used blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and a few blueberries, use whatever is good and localish)
2/3 cup superfine sugar (I used regular)
1 and 1/2 lbs good white bread, not sliced (I used challah for extra richness, was this my mistake?)
Heavy cream for serving
Combine the berries and sugar in a bowl. Cover and let macerate for 1 hour. Transfer the berries to a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and then simmer for about 2 minutes, allowing the berries to release their juices. Remove from heat and let cook. Cut the bread into 1/4 inch slices, remove the crusts. Cut a circle of bread to fit the bottom of a five cup bowl. Cut bread into slices then triangles to fit around the sides of the bowl with no gaps. Poor half of the berry mixture into the bowl. Put a layer of cut up bread on top. Then add more berries, then add another layer of sliced bread. Put a plate over the top of the bowl then weight down with cans. Put in the refrigerator for 24 top 72 hours. I did 48 hours. To serve, remove the plate, run a thin knife around edge of bowl and turn out onto a plate. Serve with more berries and whipped cream.