Title: The Lady of the Rivers
Author: Philippa Gregory
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Jacquetta of Luxembourg is descended from the river goddess Melusina, and thus has had the second sight all her life. As a young girl, she is married to the Duke of Bedford, but while married to him, she falls in love with Richard Woodville, the duke’s squire. After the Duke’s death, Jacquetta marries Richard, a commoner, and the couple ends up shaping the face of England’s future.
Jacquetta Woodville is the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV and queen of all England, as described in Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen. That was the first novel in Gregory’s The Women of the Cousin’s War series about the wars between the houses of York and Lancaster over the English throne. So, then, why does Gregory go back and write about Elizabeth’s mother in the third novel? I’ll admit, I was hesitant; I enjoy reading books in chronological order and this deviation seemed strange to me.
While I didn’t love The Lady of the Rivers as much as The White Queen or The Red Queen, I found that there was no reason to fear. This novel presents some intriguing history behind the Wars of the Roses, as it follows the reign of Henry VI and his wife and queen, Margaret. It also introduces characters that we visit later in the series and thus helps to place everyone in their proper historical context. This period in English history is a turbulent one and there are many different players to follow. By writing The Lady of the Rivers, Gregory has ensured that readers will have a more complete view of the wars for the throne, ending with the marriage of Henry VII (a Lancaster) to Eliabeth of York, daughter of Elizabeth Woodville.
I do understand why Jacquetta’s history so fascinated Philippa Gregory; she has an impressive lineage, and was heavily involved with Queen Margaret’s decisions. Her involvement with Joan of Arc as a young girl was a nice touch, and though I’m not certain whether that is historically accurate, it made for an entertaining story. However, I didn’t find Jacquetta quite as interesting as her daughter Elizabeth Woodville or Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. To me it seemed more that the book was about the events surrounding Jacquetta, rather than the woman herself. It didn’t really come across as her story.
Still, The Lady of the Rivers is a worthy contribution to this series, and is a must-read for anyone following Gregory’s novels. If I were starting the series fresh, I’d be tempted to begin with this book because it makes a great base from which to launch the other novels. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series, which is supposed to focus on Elizabeth of York.