The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

(Cover picture courtesy of A Reader’s Journal.)

A story rich in passion and legend, The Lady of the Rivers is the story of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, a woman who navigated a treacherous path through the battle lines in the Wars of the Roses.

When Jacquetta is married to the Duke of Bedford, English regent of France, he introduces her 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.

The Woodvilles soon achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta can sense the growing threat from the people of England and the danger of their royal York rivals.  As Jacquetta fights for her king and queen, she can see an extraordinary and unexpected future for her daughter Elizabeth: a change of fortune, the throne of England, and the white rose of York…

The Lady of the Rivers is, so far, my favourite book in Philippa Gregory’s The Cousins’ War series.  It was even better than The White Queen, mainly because we never saw the downfall of the Yorks, which always made me a bit sad.  Jacquetta was one of my favourite characters in the first book, so I was definitely glad to see that she got a book to herself.  The story of her childhood, first loveless marriage and subsequent marriage for love is fascinating.  And to think, all of this (the broad events of her life) actually happened.

Jacquetta is an amazing narrator.  She’s strong, cunning and yet vulnerable when it comes to love.  She truly believes in Melusina and her special gift of seeing and healing, which adds another layer to the plot of the story.  Unlike Margaret Beaufort, I felt that I truly understood this incredible woman; Philippa Gregory brought her to life in the pages.

The plot is faster paced than you would generally expect in historical fiction, which is definitely a bonus.  It’s also fascinating to see Jacquetta’s rise in the English Lancaster court while she foresees an incredible future for her daughter Elizabeth that involves England being under the house of York.  This is definitely Philippa Gregory at her finest.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

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