Book Review: THE LADY OF THE RIVERS by Philippa Gregory

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Series: The Cousins’ War, #3
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Released: October 18, 2011
Source: Review copy from publisher

Descended from Melusina, the river goddess, Jacquetta always has had the gift of second sight. As a child visiting her uncle, she met his prisoner, Joan of Arc, and saw her own power reflected in the young woman accused of witchcraft. They share the mystery of the tarot card of the wheel of fortune before Joan is taken to a horrific death at the hands of the English rulers of France. Jacquetta understands the danger for a woman who dares to dream.

Jacquetta is married to the Duke of Bedford, English regent of France, and he introduces her to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the duke’s squire Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the duke’s death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.

The Woodvilles soon achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta can sense the growing threat from the people of England and the danger of royal rivals. Not even their courage and loyalty can keep the House of Lancaster on the throne. Henry the king slides into a mysterious sleep; Margaret the queen turns to untrustworthy favorites for help; and Richard, Duke of York, threatens to overturn the whole kingdom for his rival dynasty.

Jacquetta fights for her king, her queen, and for her daughter Elizabeth for whom Jacquetta can sense an extraordinary and unexpected future: a change of fortune, the throne of England, and the white rose of York.

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THE LADY OF THE RIVERS is compelling historical fiction inspired by the life of Jacquetta of Luxembourg. In this book, her family is said to be descended from the river goddess, Melusina, and Jacquetta has been gifted with the ability to see into the future. At 17, she becomes the wife of John, Duke of Bedford, who was the English Regent of France under Henry VI. John is only interested in her scrying ability for his own political gain. The duke was many years her senior, and their marriage was brief.

Later, Jacquetta secretly marries her true love, Richard Woodville, who was a squire for the Duke of Bedford. They have many children together (the book mentions 14 of them), despite often being kept apart because of political duties. Jacquetta becomes a close friend to Queen Margaret, Henry VI’s wife. As allies to the king and queen, Jacquetta and her family are caught in the turmoil of the War of the Roses.

THE LADY OF THE RIVERS was an interesting, well written story. This is the first book by Philippa Gregory I’ve read, and it’s obvious that she knows British history from this time period. I am not that familiar with the War of the Roses, and Ms. Gregory made it come to life in rich detail.

After finishing the book, I still haven’t decided if Jacquetta herself was a strong character. She points out many times that women are not meant to make their own paths in life. Women who are a threat to men end up imprisoned or burned at the stake. She’s fearful of her magical gifts. She was very much at the mercy of others, and probably had no choice in the matter. If I calculated correctly, Jacquetta was the great-grandmother of Henry VIII, and the great-great-grandmother of Elizabeth I, so she certainly left an impressive legacy.

I enjoyed the magical elements in the book. They never overpowered the story, and they gave Jacquetta more depth. One of my favorite parts of the book was Jacquetta’s brief friendship with Joan of Arc and how they were tied together by fortune’s wheel.

THE LADY OF THE RIVERS is the third book in Philippa Gregory’s Cousins’ War series:

  1. THE WHITE QUEEN
  2. THE RED QUEEN
  3. THE LADY OF THE RIVERS
  4. THE KINGMAKER’S DAUGHTER
  5. THE WHITE PRINCESS

Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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7 thoughts on “Book Review: THE LADY OF THE RIVERS by Philippa Gregory

  1. My first Philippa Gregory book was The Boleyn Inheritance, and she hooked me into reading about Tudor history. I’m glad you liked this one. I haven’t read her last few books, and I will have to change this.

  2. I need to read this author, I appreciate when the historical aspect is well done and it brings the period to life. What a horrible time to be a woman. Wonderful review!

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