The King’s Mistress by Emma Campion
Alice knows she is lucky when she is lucky when her father chooses Janyn Perrers for her to wed. Although he is a good deal older than she is, she finds he attractive and he has never been anything but gentle and kind towards her. For awhile, they have a lovely, happy life together, until it becomes clear that he and his family have a dangerous secret involving the Dowager Queen Isabella. When Isabella passes away, Alice ends up under the protection of King Edward III and Queen Philippa, only to become Edward’s long-time mistress, reviled by much of the country.
First of all, let me just do a little cheer that “The King’s Mistress” is English historical fiction that is not about the Tudors, the War of the Roses, or Eleanor of Aquitaine. Hooray! Originality!
Alice Perrers is a fascinating woman, and I am glad that Campion decided to take her on as a subject for this novel. A merchant’s daughter, she neither wanted nor expected to spend any time with the royal family, only to end up as a royal mistress and mother to three of the king’s children. Of course, the higher someone is raised, the more enmity they attract (Tudor fans, think Wolsey and Cromwell). Indeed, Alice ends up vilified by many of those around her, accused of taking advantage of the aging king in his growing senility during their final years together.
Although the beginning was a bit slow, I thought that Campion’s writing was quite good. I thought that, overall, she let Alice’s story unfold very well and very naturally. The only minor thing that annoyed me was Alice’s italicized musings at the beginning of each of the four sections. They all ended with “When had I a choice to be other than I was?” Yes, there was a certain degree to which Alice’s fate was really being decided for her by other people, but I disliked that strong current of helplessness from Alice in these sections, particularly because I found her to be a rather strong character in the book as a whole, working for what she felt was right or what she wanted whenever it was possibly in her somewhat powerless position.
Despite a couple of minor flaws, this was a great work of historical fiction, and I would highly recommend it to people looking for something other than the same old Tudor and War of the Roses historical novels.
I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour. Check out some of the other tour hosts for more reviews. Links go to the host’s site, not to their specific review.
Tuesday, July 6th: Life in Review
Wednesday, July 7th: Luxury Reading
Thursday, July 8th: Life is a Patchwork Quilt
Friday, July 9th: Hist-Fic Chick
Monday, July 12th: The Tome Traveller
Tuesday, July 13th: Novel Whore
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