The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
Published by Simon & Schuster on October 18th 2011
Series: The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels #1
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Historical Fiction
Length: 443 pages Source: ThriftBooks
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#1 New York Times bestselling author and “queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) Philippa Gregory brings to life the story of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, a woman of passion and of legend who navigated a treacherous path through the battle lines in the War of the Roses to bring her family unimaginable power.
When the young and beautiful Jacquetta is married to the older Duke of Bedford, English regent of France, he introduces her to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the duke’s squire Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the duke’s death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.
The Woodvilles soon achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta has visions of the growing threat from the people of England and the danger of their royal York rivals. Jacquetta fights for her king and queen, as she sees an extraordinary and unexpected future for her daughter Elizabeth: a change of fortune, the white rose of York, and the throne of England…
After reading The Red Queen, I put off reading The Lady of the Rivers because I was so bored with the Cousins’ War. Not Gregory’s writing… just the war itself told over again through different eyes. This was not that part of the story and Jacquetta, surprisingly, is not that kind of girl.
I really liked Jacquetta. She is kinder and more genuine than the other women in Gergory’s novels. Margaret, on the other hand, has the same childishness as women like Anne Boleyn. Both women’s stories were interesting. I especially loved the beginning of the book. Joan of Arc! Totally unexpected.
It goes without saying that Philippa Gregory rocks this period of England. Her historical fiction is always well-researched and her fictionalizion passable. From the English weather to the small townsfolk (I really loved the detail of the scene where Jacquetta spent the night with the blacksmith’s family), she illustrates her world well.
I see four womens’ stories entwined in this book. Jacquetta, of course. Margaret of Anjou grows from a hopeful child to a vicious queen. Joan of Arc’s turn of the Wheel of Fortune. And we see the rise of Elizabeth’s Woodville’s star. I kept waiting for Margaret to win something, but she didn’t. I suppose in some ways, this should have been predictable, but I kept rooting for her anyway. Glutton for punishment.
Writing / Narration
I really like the way Gregory writes, so I am going to say this was good. That said, a friend of mine pointed out that some of the writing in this book was inconsistent with the character’s behavior in other stories, so I feel that is worth noting. I actually agree with her, but I didn’t mind it.
After The Constant Princess, this is my favorite of Gregory’s novels. There’s a lot less deception and intrigue than usually pops up, and the story revolved more around alchemy, battles, and fear. I though it was a great change. Additionally, Joan of Arc was a +10 for me, as well as the history of Melusina, whom I wanted to know more about when I read The White Queen. All in all, a solid read, and a keeper.
“The wheel of fortune […] tells us that we all only want victory. We all want to triumph. But we all have to learn to endure what comes. We have to learn to treat misfortune and great fortune with indifference. That is wisdom.”
“Once more, I am watching the most powerful men in the kingdom bring their power to bear on a woman who has done nothing worse than live to the beat of her own heart, see with her own eyes; but this is not their tempo nor their vision and they cannot tolerate any other.”
“In a way. Magic is the act of making a wish come about. Like praying, like plotting, like herbs, like exerting your will on the world, making something happen.”
“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.”
“She tried to live like an ordinary woman, but some women cannot live an ordinary life.”
Books I’d Recommend
All in all, I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Philippa Gregory’s other works, Tudor England, and historical fiction. It’s particularly well suited for fans of The Queen’s Fool, The Taming of the Queen and The Other Boleyn Girl.