Once again, Philippa Gregory has wonderfully recreated life among the royals in the fifteenth century. This is the third volume in the Cousins’ War series, but the first chronologically. It’s a prequel to The White Queen and tells the story of Jacquetta of Luxembourg from her youth through the War of the Roses. Jacquetta, like most of the women in her family, has inherited the gift of second sight from her legendary ancestor, Melusina the River Goddess. She soon realizes she must keep it carefully hidden to avoid being accused of witchcraft. Married to the widowed Duke of Bedford, English regent in France, she learns from him to love books and learning. She also learns that the Duke wants to use her sight to help his military ambitions. But Jacquetta is too young and inexperienced to be of much help to the Duke. After the Duke’s death she realizes that her friendship with his squire, Richard Woodville, has become love. The young couple marries and returns to England to serve in the court of Henry VI and his queen, Margaret of Anjou. Jacquetta becomes Margaret’s lady-in-waiting and close, trusted, friend. With the loss of much of England’s lands in France, the people become restless, royal favorites offer self-serving advice, and the situation for the young royals deteriorates. Through it all Jacquetta tries to be a steadying influence for Margaret.
There are some stretches in the book where not much is happening in Jacquetta’s life and that’s a bit of a slow read. For those that like the calmness and domestic details, it is quite enjoyable because it brings the time period to life. Gregory’s research is careful and thorough, and she makes you feel that she has been there and seen the things she describes. The characters are complex and alive. I felt sympathy for the young, sweet, simple, mad king, Henry and found myself hoping that somehow history would change and he could remain king. The target market is adult, but can cross over into the older teen market.
NetGalley review Publication date 10.18.11