The King's Mistress

The King's Mistress

A Novel

Book - 2009
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History has not been kind to Alice Perrers, the notorious mistress of King Edward III. Scholars and contemporaries alike have deemed her a manipulative woman who used her great beauty and sensuality to take advantage of an aging and increasingly senile king. But who was the woman behind the scandal? A cold-hearted opportunist or someone fighting for her very survival?

Like most girls of her era Alice is taught obedience in all things. At the age of fourteen she marries the man her father chooses for her, dutifully accepting the cost of being torn from the family she holds so dear and losing the love of her mother forever. Despite these heartbreaks Alice finds that merchant Janyn Perrers is a good and loving husband and the two settle into a happy life together. Their bliss is short-lived, however, unraveled the dark day a messenger appears at Alice's door and notifies her of Janyn's sudden disappearance.

In the wake of this tragedy, Alice learns that her husband kept many dangerous secrets--secrets that result in a price on her own head and that of her beloved daughter. Her only chance to survive lies in the protection of King Edward and Queen Philippa, but she therefore must live at court as a virtual prisoner. When she is singled out by the king for more than just royal patronage, the stakes are raised. Disobeying Edward is not an option, not when her family is at risk, but the court is full of ambitious men and women, many of whom will stop at nothing to see her fall fron grace. The whispers and gossip abound, isolating Alice, who finds unexpected solace in her love for the king.

Emma Campion paints a colorful and thrilling portrait of the court of Edward III--with all of its extravagance, scandalous love affairs, political machinations, and murder--and the devastating results of being singled out by the royal family. At the center of the storm is Alice, surviving by her wits in this dangerous world where the choices are not always of her own making. Emma Campion's dazzling novel shows that there is always another side to the story.

From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, c2009.
Edition: 1st American ed.
ISBN: 9780307589255
Characteristics: viii, 450 p. :,maps ;,25 cm.


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Sep 09, 2016

I loved Emma Campion's A Triple Knot, so I was eager to dive into this one which, it turns out, is even better. Yay!
This is no surprise, as Emma Campion is apparently a (the?) scholar on Alice Perrars, the actual human being whom this story is based on.

I found the story very plausible and compelling. Like so many women for so many years (and still, in so many areas of the world), Alice's life is never completely her own domain. She's compassionate and obedient, but she's not a dormouse. Most of the time, she's trying to make do and roll with the punches, painfully aware that men control all the things and trying to survive in that untenable situation.

She's also caught between being a mother and being mistress to the king- a fascinating juxtaposition many women throughout history have been in, that I will probably never tire of reading about. Plus, Geoffrey Chaucer is her best friend.

The story was well written and well paced, and the audiobook narrator did a fantastic job (and ALSO read the pre-chapter experts from Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde in Middle English, which is a rare treat even if I can't understand Middle English).

If you're a fan of historical fiction, especially late 1300s Britain, I recommend it. And in the audiobook format, if you can get it.

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