Figures in Silk is set against the backdrop of the War of the Roses. The story revolves around Isabel Claver, who is married at age fourteen into a London house of silkweavers. Her sister, Jane, is married to Will Shore and becomes the mistress of Edward IV. When Isabel’s husband dies, she becomes an apprentice to his mother, eventually becoming a silk entrepreneur.
I wasn’t a fan of Vanora Bennett’s first novel, Portrait of an Unknown Woman, but I thought her second might be better. I was disappointed. The novel was soporific, to say the least. I would read a bit, and then realize that I had no idea what just happened! Then I’d go back and re-read, and find out that I hadn’t missed much. The book is filled with coincidences, some of them so fantastical that you have to suspense your sense of disbelief. With regards to the characters and their thoughts and feelings, there’s a lot of telling, not showing. I also would have liked to seen more of the affair between Jane Shore and the king.
However, I did like the descriptive passages—it’s clear that Bennett has done her research with regards to historical detail. You really feel as though you’re there with the characters in late-15th century England. That said, however, I’d recommend books like Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour over Figures in Silk.