This is one of the two books I got for Christmas this year. Just look at it: great cover; great author - how could it miss? I don't know what lapse in my education left me unaware of Jacquetta, Dowager Duchess of Bedford, Lady of the Rivers, descendant of Melusina the river goddess. Learning about the War of the Roses in school would have been much more interesting had there been a unit on her, for sure! (and yes she was a real person and the book is based on historical fact.)
In case you also missed out in history class, Jacquetta of Luxembourg was born in about 1415 and at the age of 17 was married to John of Lancaster, first Duke of Bedford. This alliance to the Lancasters would be one she honored even in times of trial and disaster for the family. She became the second most powerful woman in England and ancester to the present British monarchy. From all accounts she was a strong willed woman who followed her heart no matter the cost. She is said to have dabbled in witchcraft, just a bit - or maybe more, who knows for sure. What we do know about her life sparks the imagination and Philippa Gregory used that spark to create a work of literary art.
The mix of romance, intrigue, sorcery, and historical characters and events we all know, is masterfully handled by Ms Gregory. The tale she weaves is a spell unto itself. As a reader, I was never bored and was actually sad to close the book on the last page. And, just like that, my top 64 becomes my top 65.
A Taste from page 344:
I freeze, like a deer scenting danger. “Your Grace, Eleanor Cobham consulted alchemists, and Eleanor Cobham was imprisoned for eleven years and died in Peel Castle.”She looks at me blankly. “And so?”“One of the fixed plans of my life is not to end as Eleanor Cobham”I wait. For a moment her heart lifts, her face smiles, she dissolves into laughter. “ah, Jacquetta, are you telling me that you are not some mad ugly bad old witch?”“Your Grace, every woman is a mad ugly bad old witch, sometimes in her heart. The task of every woman is to deny this.”
Character Development 5