Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Wheel of Fortune

“I put the charm bracelet away in the purse and return it to my jewel case. 
I don’t need a spell to foresee the future; I am going to make it happen.”
–Philippa Gregory, The Lady of the Rivers
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, Ltd., 502 pages
Publication Date: September 15th, 2011
Find on Goodreads

The third book in Philippa Gregory’s The Cousins’ War series is The Lady of the Rivers which chronicles Jaquetta of Luxembourg. While this is the third book in the series I hesitated reading this because I wasn’t sure if this particular woman in history would interest me. I read The White Queen, the first book in the series which follows Elizabeth Woodville, and absolutely LOVED it! The newest and fourth book in the series I actually read next called The Kingmaker’s Daughter; this tells the life of Anne Neville, daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and eventual wife of Richard III. Again, loved this book. So I decided to go back and read this one and I cannot understand my hesitation. This book was enthralling!
I must premise, I am a HUGE English history geek. I have read more books about the Tudors than I care to admit to and am creeping up on that number with this era about the Plantagenets. I also am very hesitant to admit that this family might be stealing the place in my heart that was previously held by the Tudors. They are slowly but surely surpassing them. This is huge. But anyways, I can understand that this type of writing or book might not appeal to everyone but I absolutely cannot get enough of Gregory’s writing. I am obsessed with this entire 200 year time period that she has written about and I devour her books like they’re fast paced young adult novels; I just love them.

So back to Jaquetta, her story starts out very interestingly because while in her uncle’s keeping they have captured Joan of Arc. Weird, right? This time in her life and seeing Joan’s inevitable fate cements her fear of being caught and tried for witchcraft for the rest of her life. Jaquetta descends from Melusina, the water goddess, and she is blessed (or cursed) with the Sight. Because of this Jaquetta eventually catches the eye of the Duke of Bedford and he proposes marriage. He’s about two and a half times her age, her at roughly 15, him at almost forty. And while this is not unheard of in these times, his reason for wanting her is. He does not want her as his bedmate, he will not take her virginity, he does not desire to make an heir, instead he wants her pure in order to use her gift to find the Elixir of Life.

This all comes to naught obviously and throughout her marriage she is slowly starting to fall for her husband’s squire, Richard Woodville *sigh*. He is handsome, strong, courageous, and kind. After her husband’s death, and a little trickery, she finally convinces him to marry her. He was worried he was too far beneath her and would be the ruin of her, but alas, true love prevails and with a heavy fine they are left to their devices and a very happy marriage.

The rest of the novel takes us through their lives together which include no less than 12 children, the marriage of Henry VI to Margaret of Anjou, the beginning of the battles of the Cousins’ War with Richard, Duke of York, and the eventual demise of Henry and Margaret with the rise of Edward IV of York.

I devoured this 437 page novel in about a day and a half…no joke..this is how much I love this stuff. Gregory’s writing is so poetic and flowing that you forget you are reading about actual historical events and the drama that goes on rivals any non-historical fiction work out there. Seriously people, the best stories are those rooted in the past.

The only negative I have are some of the battle scenes got a little boring to me, but they were not long or drawn out I was just impatient to get to the meat of what happens after. I also reeeeeally wish Gregory would have taken us to the arrest and execution of her husband and son. We get this story both in The White Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter but I would have love love loved to hear her personal perspective of the situation. Oh well, we can’t get everything we wish for.
I also love how much power and strength Gregory gives to her heroines. In a time where women were regarded as property of their fathers then husbands then sons, she weaves tale after tale of women rising up and wielding the power that is within their reach. And while some women take things too far and create their own downfall (Anne Boleyn, Margaret of Anjou, Katherine Howard, etc.), there are those that know how to play the game and solidify their spot in the world (Jaquetta, Elizabeth Woodville, and Elizabeth of York). I find it so interesting how Gregory portrays these strong women of the time and how easily they could have played such major roles of the time but just had to be kept more behind the scenes.

Like I said, I cannot get enough of this time period, I mentally swoon over Richard Woodville and Edward IV and I am totally going to now re-read The White Queen so I can re-live, yet again, the courtship and life of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. That review to come after I finish again. And next up is The Kingmaker’s Daughter because I feel it’s only right to go in historical chronological order rather that read order.

5/5 Stars

1 comment:

  1. Great review -- thanks for the honest thoughts and analysis. I don't know much about this era so any inaccuracies would go over my head but I do like Gregory now and then because she can be dramatic and lurid. Will probably wait on this series, though -- like my TBR isn't long enough!

    Marlene Detierro (Fly Fishing for Steelhead)


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