Book Review: ‘Wheel of Fortune’ by CF Dunn, the first in ‘The Tarnished Crown’ historical fiction series

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour to launch a fantastic new historical fiction series, set during the turbulent times of The Wars of the Roses (as they became known in later centuries). Wheel of Fortune by CF Dunn will be released by Resolute Books on 20 May 2023.

Book cover design for Wheel of Fortune by CF Dunn
CF Dunn historical fiction author, and author of ‘The Tarnished Crown series

I loved this book, and give it 5 stars. I have only one problem with it: the author ends her narrative in the middle of such a devastating scene, the reader can only feel anguish and crave the next book in the series immediately!


Wheel of Fortune is a tale of love, loyalty and vengeance set during the turbulent years of the fifteenth-century Wars of the Roses and is the first book in a major new series called The Tarnished Crown.

Wheel of Fortune is the story of two men, one woman, and a lie. Born into a period of intense conflict, all Isobel Fenton wants is to live in peace in her beloved manor of Beaumancote overlooking the river Humber and to tend her garden. But no one remains immune to the ripples created by the fight for the Crown and, caught in the web at the centre of power, Isobel must negotiate extremes of courage and moral ambiguity in her bid to survive.


At the time (1455-1485) they were ‘the Cousins’ Wars‘ and included some of the bloodiest battles ever fought on English soil (such as the Battle of Towton). It’s so easy for us nowadays to trivialise the narrative of how Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick ‘the Kingmaker’ deposed one king (Henry VI), put another on the throne (Edward IV), later deposed him and put the first one back again, then finally met his fate in battle at the hands of Edward. It sounds farcical. At the time, it would have felt complex, intractable, desperate and terrifying for many, from the highest to the lowest in society: just as we now feel about the many challenging issues that face us, nationally and globally, in 2023.

Right through from the first recognition that Henry VI’s weakness threatened the national interest, up until the victory of Henry VII over Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, and the union of Yorkist and Lancastrian sides in the new Tudor dynasty, these were unstable and frightening times, full of anger and betrayal.

If you love Alison Weir, Hilary Mantel, and Philippa Gregory you are going to be enthralled by this series. The Wheel of Fortune by CF Dunn was published by Resolute Books on 20 May 2023.

I have during the course of my own research in Warwick for my forthcoming book A-Z of Warwick gathered quite a bit of knowledge of these Wars, and of the main players in the conflict. Historical fiction at its best can crack open the dry shell of ‘schooldays history’ and invite us in to share the hopes and fears, passions and motivations of those who lived in the middle of those turbulent times.

CF Dunn has done a magnificent job with this novel; I absolutely felt I was there, on the side of her main protagonist, 17-year-old Isobel Fenton, and I could imagine every scene in the castle of the treacherous Earl where she is being held supposedly ‘under his protection’. For Isobel, it seems her destiny is utterly in the hands of political game-makers; her personal happiness, marriage prospects, free will and choices, her identity and inheritance. I could feel the insidious menace building up, as the nobles start to suspect and make plans against those who are changing sides and about to become a deadly threat.

I learned so many new things in this book, and among them, I loved the vivid portrayal of life as a nursery maid to the self indulgent children of the Earl and Countess. The depth of research undertaken by this author shines out from so many details we may never have fully appreciated: how they washed; what they used as soap; how they made up healing ointments and creams; what they brushed their teeth with, the perils of the privy in the eyes of a young child, what they wore and ate, and a host of other small but incredibly telling details about life and power balances in the castle.

Along with that, I was very aware of how people of the time would have perceived and talked about the massive political events: the terms they would have used of Henry VI and Edward IV and their wives such as ‘The King’ and ‘the old king’ and ‘the old queen’, and Henry VI’s formidable wife Margaret referred to (probably with a fine blend of respect, fear and feigned contempt) as ‘Anjou’.

The author gives us an intriguing insight into her working method as she says, I approach all my writing projects in a similar way: I know the beginning, middle and end and the major plot points before I start writing. However, then I step back and give a freer rein to the characters to interact and develop, which in turn influences the plot, adds depth and colour, and often takes the book down paths I hadn’t anticipated at the beginning.

CF Dunn’s strong, hard-hitting narrative is also often intensely lyrical and poetic. I found every aspect of this novel utterly compelling. The author is currently writing book 5 in this series, and I can’t wait to read book 2! Wheel of Fortune published by Resolute Books will be available to order from bookshops and online on 20 May 2023.

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Published by SC Skillman

I'm a writer of psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction and non-fiction. My latest book, 'Paranormal Warwickshire', was published by Amberley Publishing in November 2020. Find all my published books here:

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