Title: The King’s Mistress
Author: Emma Campion
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Arrow Books LTD
Release Date: August 6th, 2009
Source: Borrowed from the library
When had I choice to be other than I was? From childhood Alice Salisbury has learnt obedience in all things and at fourteen, dutifully marries the man her father has chosen for her – at the cost of losing the love of her mother forever and the family she holds dear.
But merchant Janyn Perrers is a good and loving husband and Alice soon learns to enjoy her marriage. Until a messenger brings news of his disappearance and she discovers that her husband had many secrets, secrets he didn’t want her to know – but which have now put a price on her own head and that of her beloved daughter. Brought under the protection of King Edward III and Queen Philippa, she must dutifully embrace her fate once more – as a virtual prisoner at Court.
And when the king singles her out for more than just royal patronage, she knows she has little choice but to accept his advances. But obeying the king brings with it many burdens as well as pleasures, as she forfeits her good name to keep her daughter free from hurt.
Still a young woman and guided by her intellect and good business sense, she learns to use her gifts as wisely as she can. But as one of the king’s favourites, she brings jealousy and hatred in her wake and some will stop at nothing to see her fall from grace.
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.