Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Descended from Melusina, the river goddess, Jacquetta has always had the gift of second sight. As a child visiting her uncle, she meets his prisoner, Joan of Arc, and recognizes her own power in the young woman accused of witchcraft. They share the mystery of the tarot card of the “wheel of fortune” before Joan is taken to a horrific death at the hands of the English rulers of France. Jacquetta understands the danger for a woman who dares to dream. Married to the Duke of Bedford, English Regent of France, Jacquetta is introduced by him 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.
This is the third book by Philippa Gregory set during the Plaganets periods and the start of the War of the Roses, but the first book chronologically speaking as it focuses on the life of Jacquette of Luxembourg, who becomes the mother of the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville. Jacquette is a new figure in history – there hasn’t been much study of her life despite the extraordinary events she lived through and was a part of. As such this really feels fresh and original – it’s not a character I’ve ever met before in historical fiction and that is something truly original these days!
Jacquette is a strong woman at a time when women who tried to control their own destines were brought low quickly. The example of Joan of Arc, who Jacquette meets when she is young is imprinted on her and since then she struggles to balance her own wants and needs against duty and way the world works. It was such a complicated time when the true King of England is not strong enough rule or even know his own mind leaving the court a mass of intrigue and politics and the dukes and royal kinsmen vie for position and power. Friendships and loyalties change frequently and it is fascinating seeing Jacquette wade in these waters while protecting her own family and battling her conscience.
Another element that I really enjoyed was the relationship between Jacquette and Richard Woodville, her second husband. They married for love at a time when love was not required in marriage – unusual in itself. Even more wonderfully they remained in love and had a very large family to prove it! Most historical fiction set at this period has more politics than romance in marriage and I loved seeing the way their relationship grew, changed and evolved over the years.
With The Lady of The Rivers Philippa Gregory is back to her strengths brining to life an extraordinary woman at a fascinating time. I wasn’t keen on The Red Queen, mostly as I disliked the main character, but now I have fallen for Historical novels again – and am I glad I have The Kingmaker’s Daughters, the fourth book in the Cousin’s War already on my TBR pile!
Recommended for fans of Victoria Lamb and Mary Hooper. 8 out of 10