The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This epic novel covers the life of Jacquetta, Henry VIII's great-grandmother. But if you think you're about to read a novel about an old lady, think again. Gregory always begins with the exciting romantic part of a woman's life, usually when she falls in love or gets married. This formula works well for her, and she uses it here with its usual effectiveness. The novel is a huge, sweeping romance that covers nearly 40 years of Jacquetta's life, from the young and beautiful girl who marries an alchemist who wishes to use her rumored sighting ability and becomes a royal duchess, to her life as Queen Margaret of Angou's Lady in Waiting, to her years as a disgraced Lancaster supporter and finally, a grandmother. I was drawn into the book and found it very informative. Of all Gregory's books I've read, this one helped me understand the York/Lancaster feud and the claimants relationships like no other. I finally felt like I was beginning to put it all together.
That said, I really would have liked the books to be in chronological order. It was a bit confusing to remember which Elizabeth she was talking about--I just read The White Queen, and it was confusing to go backwards. If I had known the books weren't in chronological order, I'd have read them that way, and I'd suggest anyone intending to read the series to do the same. You will be interested throughout, and ready to move on and see what happens to Elizabeth next. This book leaves off right where The White Queen begins, so it would be a smooth, wonderful transition to move from Lady of the Rivers to The White Queen. I'd highly recommend doing that.
That said, I still recommend this book. There is never a dull moment, which I'd commend the author for making such an exciting book about someone who is only on the outskirts of court a good deal of the time and who spends a great number of years in confinement as she is quite prolific and has, I believe, 14 children. She doesn't spend much time with them, or so it seems, and their characters aren't developed at all, except Antony a bit, when he is old enough to fight in some battles, and Elizabeth, because she arranges her marriage. Otherwise, Jacquetta seems much more interested in the scandals going on in court. While I can't say she's a good mother, or someone I'd want around me in real life, she certainly was an interesting character, and one I very much enjoyed reading about.
Would recommend this book be read FIRST in the series by anyone interested in England's history, the Cousins Wars, or fans of Gregory's.
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