Like most girls of her era Alice is taught obedience in all things. At the age of fourteen she marries the man her father chooses for her, dutifully accepting the cost of being torn from the family she holds so dear and losing the love of her mother forever. Despite these heartbreaks Alice finds that merchant Janyn Perrers is a good and loving husband and the two settle into a happy life together. Their bliss is short-lived, however, unraveled the dark day a messenger appears at Alice's door and notifies her of Janyn's sudden disappearance.
In the wake of this tragedy, Alice learns that her husband kept many dangerous secrets--secrets that result in a price on her own head and that of her beloved daughter. Her only chance to survive lies in the protection of King Edward and Queen Philippa, but she therefore must live at court as a virtual prisoner. When she is singled out by the king for more than just royal patronage, the stakes are raised. Disobeying Edward is not an option, not when her family is at risk, but the court is full of ambitious men and women, many of whom will stop at nothing to see her fall fron grace. The whispers and gossip abound, isolating Alice, who finds unexpected solace in her love for the king.
Emma Campion paints a colorful and thrilling portrait of the court of Edward III--with all of its extravagance, scandalous love affairs, political machinations, and murder--and the devastating results of being singled out by the royal family. At the center of the storm is Alice, surviving by her wits in this dangerous world where the choices are not always of her own making. Emma Campion's dazzling novel shows that there is always another side to the story.
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Right as oure firste lettre is now an A,
In beaute first so stood she, makeles.
Hire goodly loking gladed al the prees.
Nas nevere yet seyn thyng to ben preysed derre,
Nor under cloude blak so bright a sterre
-GEOFFREY CHAUCER, Troilus and Criseyde, I, 171-175
When had I a choice to be other than I was? Should I have been more selfish, more stubborn, more rebellious? Have I been too compliant, too quick to give the men in my life what they thought they wanted? Am I a fallen woman, or am I an obedient handmaiden? As a female I was acceptable only as a virginal daughter, a wife, or a widow - unless, of course, I took vows. I have been all three - daughter, wife, widow-and one other, mistress.
My lover is now long dead, and I sense death drawing near for me. I write this for my children, praying that they might understand.
I began my life in a quite acceptable fashion, but the royal family laid such snares in my path that those who would throw the first stone are certain that I can never right myself even now. Yet when had I a choice to be other than I was? This is the argument of my life.
During the week our parish church of St. Antonin on Watling Street, east of St. Paul's in London, hummed with chantry masses. Ourshad long been a parish of wealthy merchants in London who worshipped under thestricture of Christ's teaching that it was easier for a camel to go through theeye of a needle than for a rich man to gain the kingdom of God, and so they bequeathed great sums for masses to be said for their souls after death. The chantry priests were kept busy with almost continuous prayers, for it was an old parish and had buried many wealthy men and their wives, anxious forredemption.
I loved to spend time in St. Antonin's on ordinary days. It was the only place I had permission to go without a companion, a guardian, and I felt safe there. The priests' murmured prayers embraced me, and the familiar paintings and statues of our Savior, His Blessed Mother, and the saints reminded me that as long as I said my prayers and obeyed my elders I need never fear the devil. I was happily naïve, an innocent in the ways of the world.
On Sundays and important feasts the atmosphere of the little church lacked this womb like comfort, for on those days all parishioners except the bedridden attended Mass. The wealthy merchants flaunted their success by parading with their elegantly dressed families, while the gossips made note of any changes in the attendance or indeed in the attendees - a swollenlip, a swollen belly hiding beneath an uncharacteristically voluminous skirt, an outrageously expensive new headdress - so that all observations might bedebated and settled after the service and for days to come. I basked in the light of my handsome family on these busier days.
I must have long been aware that on Sundays St. Antonin's was also a marriage market, but with that gift we have as children for ignoring what does not affect or fascinate us I had paid no attention to that aspect of the day. Until it was my turn.
I begin my story with my first appearance as a vendiblein that place that was my sanctuary during the week. It was the autumn after my thirteenth birthday.
It had come as no surprise to me that I was expected to wed at a suitable age. I have no memory of a time when I had not understoodt hat as a girl my worth to the family was my marriageability, either to a mortal man or to Christ, and my parents had never spoken of the possibility of my entering a nunnery. Father was a respected member of his guild, a trader in fine cloth and jewels, and a partner in a shipping concern. My marriage should bring him even greater prosperity, or status, or, preferably, both.
I suited my parents' plans. I was pretty, well formed, well behaved, quick witted but not openly opinionated. As presentable as Father's luxury wares. I was willing and eager to be betrothed, believing that my life would only then begin; and the outcome of the Sunday I am about to recount certainly shaped the rest of my life, for good or ill.
That my moon cycle had recently begun had been fairwarning to me that my parents would begin to discuss my betrothal to someone of use to the family. But I had not expected them to take action quite so soon. Mother explained to me in her usual chilly wise that I was now of an age to assume my role in the family, to link it with another successful merchant family, and therefore she saw no reason to delay.
"The money we have spent for the grammar school you attend is better spent elsewhere. You shall not return to it."
She did not willingly waste anything, particularly affection, on me, saving that for my brother John, the eldest. Indeed, she had declared her milk used up by nursing him, and before my birth engaged a wetnurse. My two younger siblings had in their turn been handed over to wetnurses, and when weaned we were all cared for by Nan, a servant who saw to our every need with affection and devotion-but she could not entirely make up forMother's indifference.
Father was my champion. He had insisted on my time at the grammar school, and, unbeknownst to Mother, had also taught me much about thequalities and grades of cloth, as well as how to negotiate a good price and keep accounts. With his encouragement I often hid behind the curtained doorway in our home's undercroft, where he stored and displayed his merchandise, and listened to his negotiations with customers; afterward he would explain histactics. He seemed to enjoy my precocious suggestions. I enjoyed sharing thissecret endeavor with Father and told no one about it, not even my best friend Geoffrey Chaucer.
On that fateful Sunday, I sensed that the household woke holding its collective breath. Father nervously whistled and twice asked Nan the whereabouts of his boots as he paced in the hall. John was ready early and restless as well.
My gown and surcoat had been made for me from Mother's latest castoffs, an azure gown-of escarlatte, the finest wool-and a green surcoat. Unlike her usual instructions to make my gown shapeless, she'd had hermaid fit this one to my blooming breasts and slender waist. Nan's hands trembled as she dressed me with the help of another maid, who was also subdued. No doubt they were anxious that Mother should judge my attire satisfactory and notfind occasion for an angry outburst.
Although I sat quite still while Nan combed my hair I was aquiver with anxiety. I distracted myself by trying to divine what prosperous merchant Father would favor for me. I knew he would not content himself with the most handsome man with the sweetest temperament, for the goal of my marriage was an alliance of our successful house with another, preferably even grander, one. Nor could I hope for someone my own age.
I had once thought that my best friend Geoffrey might be the one, but his parents had recently sent him off to serve as a page in anoble household. Seeing my disappointment, Father had reminded me that though the Chaucers were sufficiently wealthy and respectable, their son was but thirteen years old. Before he might wed, a young man must have a position or inheritance that could support a household, and Geoffrey had neither.
I was distracted from my brooding when Nan motioned forme to turn around so she might check that all was buttoned and tucked. She clapped her hands as I spun about, but when I turned to face her again I sawthat she was crying.
"Nan, what is wrong?"
"You will have a dozen marriage proposals by evening and be wed by Christmas," she cried. "And then I'll not see you again. You'll forget your old Nan."
I hugged her so tightly she squealed and pushed away."I love you too much to forget you," I said, and meant it with all my heart.
"You will undo all my work," she protested, but I could see that she was well pleased. As I stepped into the hall my brother John broke off his pacing to stare, then dropped his gaze, swinging his head slightly as if looking for something on the floor.
"What is it?" I asked.
He looked up again, his eyes drawn to my now-flushed face, then my long neck, which was quite bare.
"I hardly know you, dressed so," he mumbled, turning toward Father, who had joined us.
"For pity's sake, Alice, do not bite your lip." Father drew me aside. "You have nothing to fret about. This is your day to revel in your youth and beauty, eh?" He took one of my hands and bowed toit, kissed it, then stepped back to have a good look at me.
"God's blood," he swore under his breath. He did not smile, but neither did he frown.
"Do I look beautiful, Father?" I asked, confused by his expression.
"You do indeed. Your mother will be proud of you today. We all will be."
"Now will you tell me who will be watching me mostclosely as I pray today, Father? I know you have spoken to someone."
He took off his hat and dabbed his forehead, sweatingdespite the chill in the hall. "You will see him soon enough, Alice, soon enough. Walk meekly and smile sweetly to those who greet you. It will be all the better if there are suitors in reserve, eh?"
He raised his hand to pat my shoulder, as was his wont, but suddenly corrected himself and dropped it. I realized that, like John, hefound me changed and somehow untouchable. I felt hot and sick and wanted to flee.
But Mother had just entered the hall from the solar above. She paused at the door with such an air of grace and command that I felt as if I were my five-year-old sister Mary, grimy and underfoot.
"Walk toward me," Mother commanded.
I did so, shivering under her hard scrutiny.
Again I obeyed as if I were a doll she manipulated from afar.
She sighed. "We have no time to fuss. There is no remedy."
"Margery, what are you saying? Alice looks lovely," Father protested.
"You would think so," Mother said with a withering look at him. "I can only hope that your chosen prey thinks likewise."
Was it possible she was as much in the dark as I regarding Father's choice?
"Come, John, Will." She sighed at my little brother's mussed hair. "Where is Nan? Has she not finished dressing Mary?"
Mother did not look my way again. I stood in the hall, embarrassed and feeling discarded. It was Nan, dear Nan, who saved the day for me.
Placing Mary's dimpled hand in mine, she said, "Tell your sister what you told me, Mary."
As I looked into my little sister's wide eyes, I realized that I was seeing love, admiration, all that I had hoped to see in the eyes of my parents and John.
"You are so beautiful," Mary declared. "I want to look just like you when I grow up."
Tempted to reach down and press the dear child to my heart, I forced myself to be satisfied with a peck on her momentarily clean cheek and a press of her hand.
"Will you walk with me to church, my lady Mary?" I asked, and my heart melted at the delight in her eyes.
"You are beautiful as a spring dawn," Nan whispered."Your mother does not like to be outshone, while your father has realized his daughter is about to leave his household. Do not judge them for their simple feelings, Alice."
And so I relaxed, once more noticing how soft the escarlatte felt against my skin, how it draped with such a liquid weight and movement that I felt graceful.
I bent to Mary. "Hold your head high, little sister. The Salisbury girls will turn all other heads this morning. You look so pretty in your gown."
Once the family was assembled in the hall I took my cloak from the peg on the wall, but Mother shook her head and handed me one of herown, gray, lined in gris, a fine fur made from the winter hides of squirrels-only the lovely backs. On her it was more of a short cape, but itreached below my knees and felt wonderfully soft and caressing.
"Take it off as you enter the nave," she instructed. "I do not want to have wasted the fine cloth of your robe byhiding it beneath a cloak. I purposed to show that your body is ready forbearing children."
Her words embarrassed me, as if I were about to parade naked through the city. I must have had tears in my eyes, because Father patted me on the shoulder-now sufficiently covered-and whispered that Mother had a headache and did not mean to be curt.
I nodded to Mary and grasped the hand that she offered me. "Let us be gone!" I said with forced cheer.
It fooled Mary, and she giggled and hopped along beside me as I headed toward the door. Will suddenly charged ahead and opened it with a sweeping bow. Now I, too, giggled and was grateful for my younger siblings.
The autumn morning was damp with a river mist that would rise by midday but for the moment made me glad of the gris lining in the cloak. Such a damp, chilly morning usually inspired complaints on my part, but today it was comforting, as if I could be private a little longer. I tried to remind myself that I was merely on display to potential suitors. It might be a year or more before I walked to the church porch to be wed. But I could not shake the sense of stepping off the edge of the world known to me and into a void without boundary, without bottom. I shivered and pulled the cloak tighter round me withmy free hand.
Mary still skipped along beside me. I pressed her hand, wondering how often I would see her once I was a wife, how much of her life I would know.
Reading Group Guide
1. Alice’s early interactions with Gwen and Dame Agnes teach her crucial lessons in being the mistress of a household. What would you say she learned? How does her relationship with Gwen develop over the course of the book? With Dame Agnes?
2. Despite the rift it causes between Alice and her parents, her marriage to Janyn Perrers brings her great joy. How does Alice mature during her years with Janyn? What aspects of her role as a married woman and a merchant’s wife does she most appreciate? If you were in her shoes, how would you feel about being summoned to court as one of Queen Philippa’s ladies?
3. The patronage of Isabella, the dowager queen, is profitable to the Perrers family, but at great cost. Do you imagine that Janyn’s family had much choice in their relationship with Isabella? How do you feel about Janyn’s marrying and starting a family despite the risks? Do you believe he comprehended the danger he might bring to Alice and Bella? Had Janyn confided in Alice once they were wed, do you think things would have turned out differently? How do you think you would feel to have such a third party in your marriage? Would how powerful the person was make a difference?
4. Dom Hanneye, Richard Lyons, and William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, prove to be Alice’s loyal friends. What is it about her that inspires their loyalty and respect? What does she give them in return?
5. King Edward takes his time luring Alice. What is it about him that attracts her—the compliment of his attention? His power? Do you think she loves him? Was there a point at which you thought she should leave him?
6. Anya Seton depicted John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, as a romantic hero in Katherine, but he was the subject of much animosity in the kingdom. Why does Alice distrust him? Do you find his behavior toward her when she’s up against parliament understandable?
7. William Wyndsor’s attentions toward Alice are nothing out of the ordinary—mere court flirtation at first. But Alice grows wary of him. Why? Some might have thought his attentions wonderfully, romantically persistent. Why does Alice question his motives? Why is she so angry about his relationship with her son?
8. Joan of Kent offers Alice friendship and advice on survival at court. Why do you suppose she befriends Alice? Do you think that she is sincere when she tells Alice that Prince Edward and John of Gaunt are her loyal friends? Do you feel Joan remains loyal to Alice? Do you feel she is to blame for John of Gaunt’s “solution” regarding Alice’s marital status after King Edward’s death?
9. King Edward relies on Richard Lyons and Alice Perrers to advise him on business and finance. Queen Philippa says she wishes Alice to teach her about merchant society in London, remembering the very close connection between the wealthy merchants and the aristocracy her parents had found crucial for their political strength in Hainault. Why, then, are Richard and Alice so distrusted by parliament? Alice herself doesn’t figure this out until it is too late—what is it that she comes to understand about their resentment and distrust? Why is she so hated by the people of London for her role as Lady of the Sun?
10. The king increasingly depends on loans from Richard Lyons and other foreigners to finance his war. But the London merchants resent the foreign merchants—why? During the peasants’ revolt, why are Richard and other Flemings singled out by the mob? Why would the monk Thomas Walsingham, in his chronicle, choose to insult Alice by claiming she was the mistress of a Lombard?
11. Telling a story in first person creates a relationship between the narrator and the reader much like that in actual conversation. As with anyone telling you their story, you must decide for yourself how candid they’re being, how reliable a narrator. As Alice tells her story, what do you feel she leaves out? Do you feel she holds back her emotions, her anger? If so, why do you think she would do so?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ms. Emma Campion's book "The King's Mistress" challenges traditional negative thinking about Alice Perrers. Traditionally, scholars have asserted that Alice was manipulative and greedy, whereas this book paints a very different picture. Campion provides an alternative view as to how Alice became the King's mistress and endured, both politically and personally. I could hardly wait to learn the fate of Alice and whether she survived years of ruthless political intrigues and royal power plays. I loved this well written book and felt it was an excellent use of rich historical facts, enlivened by an intriguing plot.
I would give this book a 4.5. I would have given it a 5 but the last 50 or so pages I could barely make it through. I understand the importance of those pages because they tie up every last tid bit for the book but it wasn't attention grabbing. This is the first historical fiction I have read, and I must say I loved it and will contunie to read this type of books. I feel for Alice's character. Being married at 14 and throwing her heart into that marriage, then finding out that marriage will determine the rest of your life. I give it to her for making the best she could out of every sitution that she was put in. She did what she thought was best for her and her children's future and in alot of the situtions she was put in she didn't really have a choice being not of noble blood, but she still did what she could to better the sitution. I liked that this was just one book, not a series of books. Most of the YA books I read have book after book, so it was nice to know I only had to read one book to have the full story!
This book holds your attention. While it is a novel, it gives some insight into the era surrounding those times. I was happy to forward it to a friend to read. I am sure she will enjoy it as much as I di.
In an endless stream of Tudor and British historical fiction, authors are struggling to be heard. Especially after the success of Philippa Gregory's Other Boleyn Girl, writers have been pumping out clones in hopes to make a few dollars during the craze. Though author Emma Campion is being billed as an Alice Salisbury "scholar," her novel The King's Mistress is just another attempt to copy the Other Boleyn Girl "formula."Basically, if you've read The Other Boleyn Girl, you've read The King's Mistress, minus the political ambition and the compelling intrigue. In The King's Mistress, merchant's daughter and commoner Alice Salisbury is married at a young age to merchant Janyn, whom she learns to love and eventually bears him a daughter. After Janyn dies, Alice ends up in service to Queen Philippa, wife to King Edward IV. As a lady in Philippa household, Alice catches the eye of the elderly king, and, of course, a lustful romance blooms between the two.Alice, though, is fairly isolated from the politics of the court, even though she bears the king three illegitimate children. To me, this is where things would really get interesting -what does it mean for Alice to be mistress to the king, and a commoner, as well as an unmarried woman in possession of lands and wealth? But strangely enough, all of the politics and intrigue of the day are placed firmly in the background and virtually ignored. Because of this, among other things, Alice, though a seemingly interesting historical figure, becomes uninteresting and hardly compelling. While the book tries to present itself as a piece exploring whether or not Alice is a misunderstood woman or a harlot, the novel doesn't really go into it. Alice is presented as a woman who is a "victim" of circumstance that just kind of goes along with things that happen to her in life which really made her far less interesting and made it difficult for me to get into her character.The King's Mistress to me, is a disappointment. Even if the author had kept the same framework as The Other Boleyn Girl, there is so much more that she could have used to spice up the story. Instead, readers are presented with a bland rip-off with an uninteresting main character that had potential to be wonderful but fell short of the mark.
Alice Salisbury is a prosperous English merchant's daughter who is soon to be wed. When her father arranges a marriage with the much older and very winsome Janyn Perrers, Alice is overcome with nervousness and hope. Janyn and Alice begin to build a beautiful life together and share a passionate love, but there are secrets about Janyn's family that will soon tear them apart. The Perrers have had an unfortunate shared past with the former queen, Isabella. After Isabella had her husband murdered and her son Edward put on the throne, the Perrers became indispensable to her for the secrets they kept. Now these secrets threaten to resurface, and the only way to protect Alice and her young daughter is to engage Alice in service to the new queen, Phillipa. As Alice comes to understand all that she must give up for the protection of her family, she begins to realize that King Edward has his eye on her for a role much different than the one she hopes to play as Phillipa's serving woman. Soon Alice is caught up in the heady love of a king and must fight to keep the public from labeling her as a dangerous woman who has the king's favor and ear. Weathering the storm in the castle, she becomes the light of the king's life but also the sworn enemy of Parliament and the commoners, her future hanging over a dangerous abyss of uncertainty and poverty. For the love of King Edward cannot sustain her indefinitely, and even before tragedy arises from her strange union, Alice is forced to make some very difficult and painful choices that will change the shape of her family's future.I admit that going into this book, I knew very little about King Edward, nor Alice Perrers, for that matter. I have come to realize, after reading this book, that little is actually known about the woman. Except for the inflammatory and malicious accounts of her from those in Parliament, the woman's life is shrouded in obscurity and gossip. The main reason this book appealed to me was the similarly in style to the books of Phillipa Gregory, yet in this book, Campion shies away from most of the bodice-ripping aspects of the story and instead chooses to focus on the difficult conundrums of Alice's free will and intention.The book begins with a fourteen year old Alice's growing concerns over her upcoming marriage. There is a definite undercurrent of hostility running through her home that takes the form of her mother's jealously. Alice's mother is a cold woman who can't easily manage the fact that she has a beautiful daughter who is a grace to the family in her own right. When Alice discovers Janyn is the man intended for her, she begins what is only the first of her struggles to accept what fate has in store for her. Though Alice admires and grows to love Janyn, she feels ever constrained by the fact that she cannot choose her future, and this comes as a bitter disappointment when she realizes that her safety can only be assured with her removal from the life she shares with her husband. Alice laments the fact that Janyn's family is so indebted to the royals and fears for the safety of her new daughter, as well as her husband. In the palace, her feelings of imprisonment only grow, and though she loves the queen, she can't help but feel like a bird in a gilded cage, constantly moving to a rhythm that she does not set herself.When Alice realizes that she is to be the king's mistress, she is thrown into confusion and fear. She realizes that once again, she has no control over this matter and is horrified to discover that Queen Phillipa herself is grooming Alice for Edward's bedchamber. That the king and queen are in collusion to deliver Alice to his bed confuses her and sets her in a world of barely concealed guilt and remorse. Edward, for his part, will not be denied, and spends great amounts of time and money wooing the still innocent young woman, who feels lost without Jaynyn and her family. This love affair between the girl and the king is by no mean ordinary, and as time
¿When had I been other than I was?¿This phrase is the sole essence of this novel. The theme remarks how complicated life can get when free will and choice are taken away. Alice Perrers, a common woman who needing royal protection when her husband disappears, is confined to a golden cage.The author was inspired by the monk Walsingham who talked briefly about Alice Perrers as this common harlot to King Edward III of England. As a result, Campion shaped a possible life for Alice, imagining that Chaucer¿s Troilus and Criseyde was based on her. The novel cannot be considered a biography of her because so little facts are known about this notorious woman. And to make the story even more exciting, Campion includes fictional suppositions of Alice¿s earlier life, along with her first marriage to Janyn, and her connection to the Dowager Queen Isabella and Mortimer¿s (completely fictional) secret love child.But using the power of fiction, Campion wrote ¿The King¿s Mistress¿ with the hope that Alice herself may be happy with the result, and I think she would have been.
I enjoyed this book although not being familiar with this time period sometimes it would get confusing to keep track of which Edward, John, Joan, etc. they were referring to in some parts of the book (come on people use some original names!). I know, I know, that is just how it was during this time period. Other than that this was an interesting read as we see everything from the view point of Dame/Mistress Alice and as hard as it is to believe she really was naive through the whole book. You cannot help but feel sorry for what she goes through when all she was trying to do was to be an obedient daughter, wife and subject of the king and queen. Most of the other historical fiction books I have read involved Henry VIII so this was a nice departure and to see the vagaries of a different royal couple. Campion says in the end that she got the idea from just a sliver of information that mentions Alice and she built a character around what she thought could have potentially been the actual situation of Alice. Like many things in history we will never know the truth, was Alice really an innocent or was she a clever merchant's daughter who manage to rise far above her station, but this was an intriguing story. It was a little slow moving for my tastes but still a nice read.
I was hooked from the first page. This novel represents what I love most about reading historical fiction. Emma Campion has taken Alice Perrers, whom little is known of, and filled out her life to explain why she was so notorious at the time, and why her reputation was undeserved. The story begins when Alice is fourteen and about to be wed to Janyn Perrers, a merchant her family has chosen for her. The author handles this delicately, Alice seems very mature for her age so you do not get the impression of child abuse, in fact it is more of a fairytale begining. Janyn seems to good to be true. This story has the right balance of romance and suspense, as well as giving the reader insight to Edward III's court as well as a glimpse of his notorious mother, Isabella of France. Alice is telling her story in first person, and you really feel you are there with her. This was obviously a labor of love for the author, and I can't wait to see what she writes next!
I enjoyed this book. I love Historical Fiction, and this was a great book about Alice Perrers, a much-misunderstood figure in the court of King Edward and Queen Phillippa. I like that the author gave Alice a heart and brought out the fact that she really may not have had a choice but to become King Edward's mistress. Who really can go against (let alone manipulate) a king?
Soooo... it's been so long since I read this (July!!!), that I barely remember anything that I had to say about it... on the plus side, that also means there wasn't anything that I particularly disliked about it. I remember enjoying it for the most part -- though I think the story moved a bit slowly at parts -- and also thinking that I really should learn more about this period in history (of which I am woefully uninformed). The novel centers around Alice Perrers, commonly known as King Edward III's "notorious mistress", and seeks to redeem her as a sympathetic character. The author portrays her as a woman who did her best to provide for her children and the people she loved, even when it meant sacrificing her own happiness in the process.As I said, I don't know much about this period of history, so I have nothing to really compare the book to (ie. historical knowledge, or other similar novels). Someone who is very familiar with these historical figures and the events of the time might have a completely different experience reading this book, and I can't say whether that would be for the good or the bad.In the meantime, as someone who read the novel at face value without bringing in prior knowledge or opinions about the featured people or events, I found it to be a decent, enjoyable read.
From My Blog...Alice Perrers, born Alice Salisbury has historically been categorically vilified and author Emma Campion decides to take a different look at the life of Alice in her novel, The King¿s Mistress. Campion takes a completely different approach from other accounts I have read and makes Alice out to be a charming and sweet woman beginning in 1355 with a desire to be a good daughter and marry well to help her father, a successful merchant. At the age of 13, she pledges to marry Janyn Perrers, but at the extreme displeasure of her mother. A good portion of the novel focuses on her marriage to Janyn as well as textiles, which makes sense, as she is the daughter of a wealthy merchant. The fabrics and styles add to the time period, yet I would have preferred less fabrics and more depth into the characters. Janyn mysteriously disappears and Alice soon requires the assistance of King Henry III and Queen Philippa. Those familiar with this time period know approximately what will occur, those not will be surprised, so I shall not divulge anything other than that this novel contains mystery, intrigue, love, scandal and dangerous secrets. Campion goes to great lengths to reshape the public¿s opinion of Alice. Campion¿s writing style is fluid, descriptive, mysterious as well as entertaining, yet I could not quite buy Alice as she is written in this novel. The King¿s Mistress is an interesting read and for those, like me, interested in historical fiction, this is another take on King Henry¿s mistress, Alice Perrers. I would suggest reading other novels about this complicated woman to get a more complete sense of this infamous woman. I found The King¿s Mistress to be a delightful read and as wrong as this may sound, I discovered I prefer the more scandalous version of Alice Perrers than the version Campion offers, yet I would recommend The King¿s Mistress to those who enjoy historical fiction. I would have liked to have been discussing this book while I read it, so I would recommend it as a discussion group choice.
I very much enjoyed this beautifully written and luxuriously paced book. Alice Perrers is not someone I was familiar with as I am less familiar with the time period of Edward III so it was interesting to delve into a part of history that was new to me. I also really enjoyed reading about someone in the merchant class. So often historical fiction deals almost exclusively with the high born - this is the third bit of historical fiction that I have read this year that captures the lives of people not born to the ruling classes (the other two are The Daughters of the Witching Hill and Wolf Hall) - it's nice to see some different perspectives, it makes me feel as if I have a broader view of things.Alice is the daughter of a cloth merchant and is, thusly, trained to notice fabrics and fabrics are, indeed, important throughout the book - as a memory device, as a way of making friends, as a means of denoting mood or status. It's a lovely way to thread a coherent through line and an aspect of the book that I loved.I also loved being forced to look at and think about a different view of marriage. From Alice's early thoughts about marriage as a way to honor and strengthen her family to the various kinds of marriages we observe among the nobility marriage at that time was different than the way we think of it. I very much enjoyed the author's embrace of mores and means of the time period.Lastly, I liked how ordinary Alice was - an ordinary woman making her life in extraordinary times as best she could. It's good to be reminded that sometimes an ordinary life is worth hearing about.
I¿ll admit, I don¿t know much about history. I had never heard of Alice Perrers and was unaware that she was a real person when I began this book. The tale is fictional, but it is written by Emma Campion who ¿did her graduate work in medieval and Anglo-Saxon literature and is the world's foremost scholar on Alice Perrers.¿ So I can only imagine that Perrers lived an extraordinary life.The book was very well written and Campion put in such detail, you can tell she truly cared about the subject and the enormous amount of characters within the story. My only issue was trying to keep so many characters with the same names or similar names straight. Often times I was confused by who someone was or thinking they were someone else because of these name issues. Though the details of Alice¿s life were amazing, I felt so very sorry for someone ever having been put into the position she had and having no choice in the matter, time and time again. Alice¿s character was brought alive by Campion¿s words and linking her to people like Geoffrey Chaucer was a very redeeming quality within the story. I think history buff¿s and historical fiction lovers will adore this story.
I have a big soft spot for historical fiction, especially stories set in medieval England. I can never get enough of the court intrigue, back stabbing royal courtiers, and the excesses of the kings and queens. I have a particular fondness for stories that are told from the point of view of an outsider, someone that manages to get pulled into the royal orbit and has to adjust to a life they don¿t want to live and were never prepared for. In this case, Alice Perrers is that outsider. Campion takes a little known mistress to a king and elevates her story, with a lot of embellishments for the fiction lovers of course, to one that is really fascinating.Alice Salisbury is a young girl when she meets, and falls in love with, her future husband, Janyn Perrers. It is an arranged marriage but Alice and Janyn do find much love together, and Alice, young and naive as she is, thinks herself blessed and content happy to live out her days married to a wealthy merchant. Unfortunately for Alice, Janyn¿s family harbors a secret that will tear the small, happy family apart and cause a lot heartache that will not end even when the secret that was kept from Alice is revealed.Janyn¿s family has connections to the Dowager Queen Isabella, mother of Edward III, and a woman full of secrets, lies, and the ability to ruin lives. For Alice, this relationship which entranced her and then quickly scared her, becomes a shackle. When her much loved husband disappears, Alice finds a price has been put on her head and she soon becomes a pawn of the royal household. A daughter and wife of a merchant, she is lost at court unable to decipher small gestures that mean so much and not able, and sometimes unwilling, to make and keep friends. She does, however, manage to foster a relationship with Queen Philippa, the wife of Edward III, which becomes her grounding force in the hectic court.Alice¿s relationship with the Queen keeps her safe but she is unprepared for the role for which she is being groomed --- she is to become the mistress of Edward III. Alice doesn¿t go willingly to the King¿s bed and finds her attraction and love for the King scare her. She eventually gives in fully and becomes lost in her all consuming love for Edward. The relationship, which she had hoped would stay quiet, puts her in even more danger than she ever imagined. She decides that while she may not have control of her own life, she will use her position to make a stable and safe life for her children, and in the process, becomes a rich landowner, a position that many people at court do not care for. After the death of the King, Alice finds no reprieve but only more fight ahead of her and, all pretenses of naivety gone, she starts once more to claim her life.It is obvious that Campion knows her subject and time period extraordinarily well. The details she sprinkles throughout the story are rich and draw you into the world that Alice inhabits. The court scandals, murderous plots, love affairs, and extravagant parties move the story along making you wonder how one person could find so much love and pain in the same life. While The King¿s Mistress is fiction, the real life Alice Perrers would probably have been entertained by the story Campion weaves.This is a heavy read though. While Campion has obviously done her research, there were times when the details felt too overwhelming and slowed the story down a bit. The excesses of the royal family and descriptions of cloth and clothing sometimes brought the story to a halt. Fortunately, the story has more than enough going for it to overcome the details and Alice makes a fine character to follow. For lovers of historical fiction, this has a bit of everything to enjoy.
I thought this was a good historical novel. Good reading
I found myself caught up in the story often laughing or crying. This is a great read for those who enjoy a bit of history with their romance!
At the beginning of the novel, it cam seem a little slow, but trust me it gets so much better. From the moment she firts get married, all the way to the end. Campion's style of writing, as well as her grammar was very fit for this novel and time period. I really felt like I knew who Alice is, was, and forever shall be.
FINALLY! I've been wanting to read a book that is addictive and here it is. I haven't read a book in a really long time that I didn't want to put down- that I was excited to read when I got home from work. Alice is a great main character. I liked that there weren't so many different names and titles that it got confusing to keep track of. Alice was a relate-able main character and I wasn't disappointed in the ending. It did kind of "skim over" some big chunks of time but I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything; that period of time was just uneventful and would have been a waste anyway. I am a HUGE historical fiction fan and this ranks right up there among my favorites.
While this is complet ely fanciful, it is fun.