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Book 144: The Lady of the Rivers by Phillipa Gregory

Book cover
Book 144: The Lady of the Rivers (Cousins' War #3) .
Author: Phillipa Gregory, 2011.
Genre: Historical Fiction. 15th Century England. War.
Other Details: Hardback. 502 pages Unabridged audio (Length: 19hours, 7 mins ) Read by Bianca Amato.

Born with the second sight, Jacquetta of Luxembourg is married at a young age to John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford, who served as Regent of France for his nephew Henry VI. He introduces her to the world of learning and alchemy. After his death she is left a wealthy young widow and soon secretly marries her late husband's knight, Sir Richard Woodville. Though this marriage initially displeases the King, eventually they are forgiven. Jacquetta is called to court to serve Henry VI's young queen, Margaret of Anjou, becoming her friend and close confidant. Her husband also disintguishes himself in the King's service. The Woodvilles find themselves at the heart of royal politics and Richard is ennobled for services to the crown by the King becoming Baron Rivers, a title chosen by the couple partly in honour of Jacquetta's legendary ancestor, the river goddess Melusina.

When Henry VI slides into a mysterious illness, his queen turns to untrustworthy favourites and the ambitious Richard, Duke of York threatens to overturn the Lancastrian dynasty in favour of the House of York. Fiercely protective of her family and loyal to both king and queen, Jacquetta's story navigates the battle lines as the Wars of the Roses begins.

Audio cover
The third in Philippa Gregory's series about the royal women caught up in the Wars of the Roses is technically a prequel to the first book as it focuses on the life of the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, narrator and central protagonist of The White Queen. Indeed, this novel ends at about the point where The White Queen opens with Elizabeth's historic meeting with the young King Edward IV.

Gregory again untangles the complexities of the Wars of the Roses by presenting them in the form of Jacquetta's personal account of those tumultuous times as witnessed by herself as the wife of one of Henry VI's closest supporters and her own friendship with Queen Margaret. I found Jacquetta a more sympathetic here than when she appeared as a supporting character in The White Queen and was quickly swept up in the events she recounted.

I know from hearing Philippa Gregory speak when The White Queen was published that Jacquetta's role in history fascinated her and that she spent considerable time researching her life. In the Author's Note to this novel Gregory expresses her concern that historians have tended to overlook women who play a part in shaping history and that she hopes through her fiction to stimulate interest.

Overall, I have found this an excellent series. As with a few novels that I've enjoyed recently, I read the novel and then listened to its audiobook version. As an aside, I could certainly see how the personalities and events of the Wars of the Roses had served as inspiration for G.R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Queen Margaret especially often called to mind Cersei Lannister.

Phillipa Gregory's page on 'The Lady of the Rivers'.
Tags: historical fiction, war, witchcraft

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