New Fiction Review: The Lady of the Rivers

Today, The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory is available to the public. The Lady of the Rivers is the third book in The Cousins’ War series. The series includes The White Queen, The Red Queen, and now The Lady of the Rivers.

These books are all historical fiction. To give a bit of a background, the novels are set during The War of the Roses, a civil war in England fought between two branches of the House of Plantagenet – the House of Lancaster, the red rose, and the House of York, the white rose.

The White Queen

King Edward IV meets a woman of extraordinary beauty, Elizabeth Woodville, and marries her in secret since she is not royalty. Soon after, King Edward IV announces their marriage and it becomes official – they become the heart of the House of York and Elizabeth becomes the White Queen. Elizabeth is a strong woman who stands up for what she believes in and is a descendant of Melusina, the river goddess.  Elizabeth’s two sons soon become central to a mystery of the missing princes in the Tower of London, which has had real-life historians perplexed for many centuries.

The Red Queen

The reader sees this story through the eyes of Margaret Beaufort, the royal heir of the House of Lancaster, while she is in the midst of The War of the Roses. Margaret marries Edmond Tudor, has a child named Henry, and becomes a widow all in a very short period of time. Margaret struggles both through the wars in England and to take her rightful place as the mother of the King of England, the Red Queen.

The Lady of the Rivers

In this novel we go back in time before The White Queen, to the story of Jacquetta, a woman who has the gift of second sight. At the beginning of the novel, Jacquetta meets Joan of Arc, her uncle’s prisoner, and foretells her future. Soon, Jacquetta is married off to the Duke of Bedford, where she learns many things, including alchemy. After the Duke dies, Jacquetta marries the duke’s squire, Richard Woodville, and they are tossed into the very heart of the clash between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. Jacquetta was the mother of the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville.

Gregory is a very talented writer. Once I pick up one of her books, I can never seem to put them down. I become completely fascinated by the story and can never wait to find out what happens next. And while she takes some liberties with the stories to make them more readable, Gregory does extensive research in writing her books. The base of the stories are often true. The fictional parts that Gregory weaves into the storyline about Melusina and witchcraft are unique and gives the stories a bit of an interesting twist that readers don’t often see in these types of stories.

If you’re up for a bit of historical fiction featuring very strong-willed, smart, ambitious women, I would recommend any of the books in The Cousins’ War series.

Which of Gregory’s books is your favorite?

 — Kristen B.

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