Title: The King’s Mistress: A Novel
Author: Emma Campion
Release Date: July 6, 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Alice Salisbury is the daughter of a merchant. At just fourteen, her father is trying to set up her marriage, and betroths her to Janyn Perrers over her mother’s strong objections. Alice, however, is thrilled with the match – Janyn is handsome and kind, and even though he is much older than Alice, he seems to really care for her. After they are married, Alice begins to question Janyn’s mysterious dealings and favor from the royal family. What she discovers, and what happens as a result of this connection, will change Alice’s life forever and set her directly on a course to become the mistress to none other than the king himself.
I haven’t been reading much historical fiction lately. A lot has been covered in the genre over the past few years, to the point where the glut of novels about Henry VIII and his wives has been overwhelming. A lot of the books just feel like more of the same at this point, as there are only so many interpretations of one person that novelists can undertake. However, when I first heard about The King’s Mistress, I was immediately intrigued. I had never heard of Alice Perrers, and this book promised something new and fresh.
I really enjoyed The King’s Mistress. It was expertly researched; Campion clearly studied Alice Perrer’s life thoroughly. In fact, Campion is a medieval scholar, and it shows in this novel. The details are perfect and she sets the stage incredibly well. Her descriptions are precise, but she never weighs the reader down with unnecessary particulars. I really learned a lot from reading this novel, which was wonderful considering the process was so enjoyable.
Alice Perrers was an incredibly well written character. I hated that her life was never really hers to command; as was characteristic of the time, she was always subject the whim of a man. She was smarter and better educated than most of the women of her time, and indeed most men, so it was gratifying when those around her were actually broad minded enough to realize it. She certainly had a lot of happiness in her life and was a lucky woman, but at the same time she never really had peace. Every time she thought the world would forget about her and leave her alone, something else happened to bring her back to the center of people’s attention. It was frustrating as a reader, because I felt so much sympathy for Alice and just wanted her to find some contentment in life. Campion wrote her heroine such that the reader really gets to know her well.
Alice’s story is an exciting one, full of intrigue and politics, and Campion did an excellent job with it. She balances well among the competing aspects of Alice’s personal relationships, the goings-on at court, and the broader national politics that England was contending with. The book never takes on a soap opera or gossipy nature, and is about much more than sex or Alice’s status as a royal mistress, which I appreciated very much. It’s an intelligent well-written novel; I already can’t wait to see what Campion does next.