“ Author: Philippa Gregory / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 29 March 2012 / Genre: Historical Fiction / Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd / Title: The Lady of the Rivers / ISBN 13: 9781847394668 / ISBN 10: 1847394668 / Alternative EAN: 9781847374592 „
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'We stand hand-clasped, our faces quite blank, as if this were not a nightmare that tells me, as clearly as if it was written in letters of fire, what ending a girl may expect if she defies the rules of men. I am not only here to witness what happens to a heretic. I am here to witness what happens to a woman who thinks she knows more than men.'
It is the year 1435. Jaquetta of Luxembourg is left a young and wealthy widow when her husband, the Duke of Bedford dies. It is not long before Jaquetta and Richard Woodville, the former Duke's squire, give in to their true feelings and marry, despite the royal court's disapproval.
Jaquetta becomes close friends with Margaret of Anjou, the new wife of King Henry VI. As the king slips into a mysterious sleep, the people of England rise up against him and his french queen. At the head of this rebellion is Richard Duke of York, head of the House of York, who threatens to overthrow the King and take the throne for himself. Jaquetta must face the dangers of living in a country at war, and fight for the safety of her family, especially her oldest daughter, Elizabeth Woodville.
I'll be honest; when I first started reading this book, I wasn't sure if I could get into it. It didn't grab me from the start like the other books in the series, but as the story progressed into something that I was more familiar with I really started to enjoy it. The story started in France in 1435, when Jaquetta was a young woman. She learns from a young age that she can never be more powerful than a man, or she will face the same fate as Joan of Arc, who she befriends before she is executed.
Jaquetta's relationship with her great-aunt was enjoyable to read. She teaches Jaquetta about her heritage,their ancestor Melusina, and how to use her gift of foreseeing for the right reasons. I enjoyed reading about the knowledge being passed down to Jaquetta, because I know that she passed the knowledge onto her daughter Elizabeth Woodville in The White Queen.
Jaquetta's character was a joy to read about. She's living in a country at war, which is dangerous for everyone, but even more so for people that are close to the King and Queen, and who will have harder to fall, should they lose in battle. There is the the constant fear of losing her Husband and her Son in battle, and it seems as though the battles will never end, and she'll always have to be worried about them. As if this isn't bad enough, Jaquetta must hide her gifts, or risk the same fate as Joan of Arc, which Jaquetta had to witness first hand. I really admire the strength that she shows throughout the story, throughout all of the battles, the conspiracies, and the pain.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this book was the relationship between Jaquetta and Richard Woodville. Most of the marriages in this period of history were arranged to financially benefit the families of the betrothed. But from their very first meeting, there was a real spark between Jaquetta and Richard, which was lovely to see. They spent more and more time together as time went by, and when Jaquetta's first husband died, they went against the wishes of the Royal Court and married for love. The greetings between husband and wife in these books are often very formal, with no hint of love whatsoever. But each and every time Richard returns from battle, it is as if they were young again with the joy of being back together. This was heartwarming in a book so full of tragedy.
This is the third book in the series 'The Cousins' War' but should be read before 'The White Queen' to keep the stories in chronological order. I didn't know this before I read 'The White Queen', but I found it easy to follow anyway. The next book that I'm going to read in this series is 'The Kingmaker's Daughter' the story of Anne Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick. Philippa Gregory has pulled off another fantastic and fascinating book with this installment, and I'm looking forward to reading the next one.
I'm a big fan of Philippa Gregory and have been for years, I tend to devour her books as soon as they're released but found myself disappointed by The Red Queen so I didn't rush to purchase the third instalment of The Cousins War series - in The Lady of the Rivers, however, Gregory has completely redeemed herself and I'd definitely say it's one of her best.
The novel is from the viewpoint of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford who is a major player in the circle around the throne of England and the court of the delicate King Henry VI. She married young and was widowed not long afterwards, the marriage was a sham as the Duke wanted Jacquetta only to keep her as a virgin and make the most of her skills as a scryer and woman of 'powers'. He was a kind husband and left her well provided for after his death but she felt unloved throughout the relatively short marriage, something she remedied when she married Richard Woodville for love very quickly after his death - a marriage she paid dearly for in terms of reputation and lifestyle as it was done without the permission of the king and council.
The pairing was initially scandalous; Jacquetta was the most powerful woman in the land through her marriage to the Duke, Richard was his trusted squire and right hand man. Even before Jacquetta married her 'lord', as she usually referred to him, there was a connection between herself and Richard - the fact that they ended up together so effortlessly after the Duke died wasn't at all surprising; I was a little shocked at the speed in which Gregory ripped through their courtship but then again the important part of their lives happens when they are a solid married couple, the prelude to this probably *was* dull in comparison.
Richard Woodville is an incredibly strong character, while the novel may be focussed on Jacquetta you can feel Richard with her at every turn of the page. They are so in love, it's done beautifully well in that The Lady of the Rivers never morphs into anything like a romance novel (thankfully!) despite there being such a strong bond between the two central characters. Richard is often away at war and is posted to Calais on numerous occasions, he's a brave and noble soldier who is softened in my eyes through his obvious love for Jacquetta - he dotes on her, as she dotes on him, rare in men of the time who tended to put political advantage over the happiness and security of their wives and families. Richard broke the mould, his love never wavered and although they were apart for much of their marriage they forged a strong family together and he was indispensable to Jacquetta for his advice - the author brings this complete devotion across so well, I wanted them to be happy and was honestly downcast for Jacquetta when her beloved husband went away into danger and willed him to come home safely.
Jacquetta remains, however, the absolute central character of this novel. She is a strong female lead, even without her fruitful first marriage I suspect she would have been a powerful lady in her own right - she is made all the more interesting because of her gifts; Jacquetta is descended from the legendary water goddess Melusina and I suspect *did* have at least a modicum of the spiritual about her, of course in those days witchcraft was feared and punishable by a painful death so Jacquetta (and other women like her) hid and denied their gifts by necessity. I was a little disappointed by the lack of 'witching tales' as I'd expected Gregory to take full advantage of Jaquetta's gifts, but the inference is there and it maybe works better that the whole witchcraft angle isn't more thoroughly explored to add to the atmosphere and the very 'shhhhh' nature of how people of the time thought about people (mainly women) who had such gifts.
Gregory comes in for a lot of flack regarding how accurate her novels are, and knowing a little of the history of Royal English history I can often pick out errors and 'glossing over' in her work. However hers are works of fiction and personally I don't really mind if she changes a timeline here and there, or introduces a character who probably wasn't really around at that point. Without these changes you'd be reading a bog standard history book, with the changes you have a rich and exciting novel which flows beautifully into a highly readable and very interesting story.
Lady of the Rivers is superbly written and I ended up sitting up much later than my bedtime in order to get it read, the chapters are surprisingly short so it's ridiculously easy to say 'I'll just read one more' and that one turns into ten and before you know it it's 3am and you have to be up in three hours time! The chapters don't exactly end on cliffhangers (or at least not all of them do) but I'd find myself so engrossed in the tale that I'd want to carry on reading just to find out what happens to one central character or another. I particularly enjoyed the relatively short segments on Elizabeth Woodville, Jaquetta's daughter, who made a successful second marriage to King Edward IV and became his beloved Queen Consort, and was also the mother of the murdered Princes in the Tower. Elizabeth doesn't feature too much in the novel and this is probably a good thing as hers was such a strange life that she could easily take over the story; the love Jaquetta feels for her first born daughter shines through however and although she tries to shield Elizabeth from the gifts that she has quite clearly inherited from the female line of her family, it becomes apparent as her daughter reaches womanhood that she has fairly intense powers of her own - powerful enough to ensnare a King and rise herself to the top of the English pecking order anyway!
I can't fault this novel at all and am pleased that Gregory has redeemed herself after a couple of not-so-good books, I'm now looking forward to reading the fourth installment of her Cousin's War (The Kingmaker's Daughter) and hoping it'll be as fabulous as this one - although I may wait until the next school holiday to start it, just in case it's one which leads me to burn the midnight oil again!
The Lady of the Rivers is the third book in Philippa Gregory's Cousin's War series, set throughout the War of the Roses. The first two are the White Queen about Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV and mother of the Princes in the Tower; and The Red Queen about Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. The fourth book, The Kingmakers Daughter about Anne Neville is available now too.
The Lady of the Rivers is all about Jacquetta, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville. Jacquetta was a strong women living in dangerous times who managed to survive the Wars of the Roses against all odds, yet little seems to have been previously written about her.
The story starts with Jacquetta as a young girl in 1430, learning about her family. It is said that she was descended from Melusina, a mythical creature said to be a river goddess or a mermaid. Jacquetta inherits the gift of second sight from her ancestor. She is married to the Duke of Bedford who has learnt about her family, and wants to use her to see in to the future to tell him when he should go in to battle and when he is likely to win.
After she is widowed, she marries her former husband's squire, Richard Woodville. Richard and Jacquetta enjoy a long and happy marriage, with many children born to them .
Living through such troubled times was never going to be easy though. As Dowager Duchess Jacquetta is one of the first ladies in the land. She becomes a close friend and confidante of Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI, the Lancaster King. She supports Margaret throughout his periods of insanity, or when he is said to be 'sleeping' for long periods of time. Margaret is shown to be an impulsive queen so sure of her right to reign in her husband's absence, Jacquetta has her work cut out trying to keep the queen in some kind of order without this becoming apparent. With her husband absent for many years doing his duty to the king, Jacquetta is constantly at the Queen's side and they even ride out, just the two of them, to watch and a Lancaster York battle from the belfry of a church. When the battle turns and the Lancaster army seems sure to lose, Margaret begs Jacquetta to let her ride off alone, and leaves Jacquetta alone and in great danger to face the York army and try to confuse them in to chasing the queen in the wrong direction. This is just one example of the Queen's selfish and compulsive behaviour.
Jacquetta also has to be wary of her skills as she watches her sister-in-law, Eleanor Cobham, the Duchess of Gloucester, brought to trial for witchcraft and imprisoned from 1442 until her death in 1452.
The book ends in the Spring of 1464, midway through the Wars of the Roses when Jacquetta's daughter, Elizabeth, first meets King Edward.
The Wars of the Roses was an incredibly unsettled time, with the royal cousins tearing their families apart. Very few families come through the period unscathed, with thousands of men being killed in the various battles. The books I have previously read on the period have mainly been from inside the York camp, so it was interesting to read a book so focussed on the House of Lancaster. Although the book is mainly about Jacquetta, it also focuses a lot on Margaret of Anjou, a woman I definitely didn't warm to. I can understand some of the reasons for her actions, but she is ruthless and vengeful.
I found the book an absorbing read. Gregory always makes the times come alive with her descriptions of everything from the beautiful dresses worn to the desperate battle scenes. Gregory clearly does so much research into all her books that it really shows and I find them an absolute pleasure to read.
Five stars from me - I would highly recommend the previous two books and can't wait for the fourth one!
The Lady of the Rivers is available from Amazon for £3.86 including delivery. The paperback, published by Simon & Schuster (Mar 2012) has 544 pages.
Thanks for reading.
The Lady of the Rivers is the third novel in Philippa Gregory's Cousins at War trilogy, covering the stories of three of the women involved in the Wars of the Roses. The first novel, The White Queen, was about Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's Queen Consort; the second, The Red Queen, covered Margaret Beaufort, mother of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. Now in The Lady of the Rivers we go back in time to the story of Elizabeth's mother Jacquetta, firstly Duchess of Bedford, and then following the death of her husband, she marries Richard Woodville who becomes the first Earl Rivers.
The Wars of the Roses is a fascinating and complex time in English history. The houses of Lancaster and York fought each other for the throne, which changed between them a few times. Henry VI was the Lancaster king when The Lady of the Rivers begins, but due to his ineffectual rule and the influence of his wife, the Duke of York fought to have the right to advise the king, and later his son, who became Edward IV, fought to win the throne itself. Jacquetta was staunchly Lancastrian - born into the Luxembourg royal family, she married the Duke of Bedford at a young age, and was influenced by his unwavering loyalty to Henry VI. Her second husband Richard served the Duke of Bedford and is equally loyal. Jacquetta became a close friend of Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI's Queen, and stuck by her despite her misgivings about Margaret's choices and actions.
Gregory's historical novels are almost always exciting, and this is no exception. Simply reading the history of the Wars of the Roses is exciting, so to novelize that history and fictionalize dialogue adds a personal element to a well-known tale. Her research is excellent, and her novels are historically accurate wherever possible, and The Lady of the Rivers is no exception. All notable events are present and correct, and details which are not conclusively known tend to be based on the most likely event.
Jacquetta's family was purported to be descended from the water goddess Melusina, and the women had powers of foretelling and magic. This was examined in The White Queen, as it was alleged that Elizabeth Woodville was a sorceress, and of course there is more of this aspect of the story in The Lady of the Rivers.
Gregory's style is engaging and easy to follow - although these novels are set in a time far removed from ours, she makes her stories easy for modern readers to engage with. Her style is not modern, but is suited to the time period, yet is still clear.
In The Lady of the Rivers, Gregory has chosen a fascinating and sympathetic character in Jacquetta. The same was true of The White Queen, but this was missing somewhat in The Red Queen - although Margaret Beaufort was fascinating, she is not someone it is easy to like or have sympathy for. Jacquetta and her daughter Elizabeth make much more likeable characters.
The Lady of the Rivers ends where The White Queen began, with Elizabeth having met Edward IV. Each novel has taken a small step further back in time, with The Red Queen starting earlier than The White Queen, and The Lady of the Rivers taking a step further back as well. One effect of this is that it gives the reader more knowledge than the characters - when Jacquetta meets a young Margaret Beaufort, we know Margaret's fate while Jacquetta can only wonder. Similarly, Jacquetta sees a great future for her daughter, but cannot be sure what it is - while of course we the reader know that Elizabeth will become Queen. While I enjoyed this foreknowledge, which was also based on my own knowledge of the history, you could actually read the trilogy backwards, starting with The Lady of the Rivers, to avoid knowing what is going to become of everyone!
The Lady of the Rivers is a thoroughly enjoyable read, and a must for all fans of Philippa Gregory. Future subjects may include Elizabeth of York, daughter of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV, and mother of Henry VIII, and the Neville women, daughters of the "Kingmaker" Richard Neville - whatever her next subject, I thoroughly look forward to Gregory's future novels
This review was originally published on www.curiousbookfans.co.uk, and I recieved a copy of the novel through Curious Book Fans for review from the publisher.