Passion. Danger. Witchcraft . . .
The Lady of the Rivers is #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory’s remarkable story of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, a woman who navigated a treacherous path through the battle lines in the Wars of the Roses.
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.
A sweeping, powerful story rich in passion and legend and drawing on years of research, The Lady of the Rivers tells the story of the real-life mother of the white queen.
Particulars of the book:
A Bit About the Author :
Philippa Gregory, author of the bestselling Wideacre trilogy and other celebrated historical novels, holds a B.A. in history and a Ph.D. in 18th-century literature. In her youth, however, the meticulous writer-researcher almost skipped going to university (she was, as she put it, "a bit of a rebel at school"). When she finally did enroll at Sussex University, she took a course taught by the historian Maurice Hutt, and the rest is -- what else? -- history.
"It was such a powerful experience that, really, it transformed my life," she explained in an interview with The Guardian. "I was looking for something that would explain everything -- I was that kind of earnest young woman! -- and history seemed to be able to do that."
Gregory earned her degree from Sussex, then traveled to Edinburgh to research 18th-century popular novels. The research spawned both a Ph.D. thesis and Gregory's first novel, Wideacre, which was a New York Times bestseller. It came, Gregory pointed out in a Barnes and Noble interview, "at a time when people wanted a new sort of historical fiction: more realistic, more radical, more sexy, and harder edged. That's how I see the world, so I never wrote for a market, I always wrote to reflect my own view of the period, and it has been phenomenally successful."
After extending Wideacre into a trilogy, Gregory continued to write fiction, delving into 16th-century witchcraft , 17th-century political turmoil, and 18th-century slave trading, as well as exploring contemporary life.
But while Gregory -- in her own view and in the views of many critics -- continued to improve as a writer, none of her books matched the popular success of Wideacre until she wrote The Other Boleyn Girl, a provocative tale of sexual politics in the court of Henry VIII, and The Queen's Fool, the story of a 14-year-old Jewish girl brought to the court of Queen Mary. Both novels became bestsellers and widely acclaimed storytelling tour de forces.
Gregory continues to mine the territory of Tudor England for stories -- and she continues with her historical research, building up an ever more dazzling, daring and complete picture of the period. "Accuracy is very important to me because I have a total commitment to history," Gregory told The Guardian. "It answered my deepest questions, of which, I suppose, the most profound is: ‘Why am I here?' Understanding your history can tell you that. It's how I understand who I am and where I came from. I would never lie to anyone about history."
See her website: http://philippagregory.com
Watch the "...Lady of the Rivers" trailer!
Guest Review by: Catherine Fahy~
A sweeping tale based on the true story of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, "The Lady of the Rivers" follows this extraordinary woman from her childhood in France to her place at the center of the court of young King Henry VI and the War of the Roses.
"The Lady of the Rivers" is ultimately a story about the power of women — wise and unwise, overt and covert — and the efforts of the men around them to suppress that power. Only Jacquetta seems to be able to navigate the treachery of 15th century England with all the tact, decorum and loyalty we'd admire in a woman today.
Those familiar with Gregory's work will recognize "The Lady of the Rivers" as akin to "The Other Boleyn Girl" rather than the debaucherous Wideacre Trilogy.
Part of Jacquetta's success is her trust in her instincts, or her gift of second sight as it's named, which comes to her as a child sitting on a riverbank at her uncle's castle with his prisoner, Joan of Arc.
Playing tarot, they draw "the wheel of fortune" card, whose symbol — a circle drawn in the air with a forefinger — is used throughout the book, such as when Joan becomes one of the women to meet an unfortunate end at the hands of vengeful men.
"I am here to witness what happens to a woman who thinks she knows more than men," Jacqetta says upon seeing her friend burned at the stake for witchcraft and heresy.
Shortly after that, in an an effort to endear her country to the English occupiers who Joan defied, Jacquetta is married to the much older Duke of Bedford, English Regent of France. Rather than love (they don't even consummate the marriage) the duke covets his young bride for her gift of second sight and forces her to "scry" before a mirror.
But he is ultimately a kind man, and also introduces her to the world of learning and alchemy contained in his vast library. It's not surprising that the Duke dies, given his (at that time) advanced age and the stress he was under to keep France secure for England, but Jacquetta's trajectory after he dies is even more surprising.
Rather than submit to remarriage at the direction of the king's advisors, she secretly marries her lover — her former husband's squire, Richard of Woodville. Normally, this bold and scandalous move would send a high-born woman away from the court to a life of shame, but Jacquetta becomes a confidante of Henry VI's new queen, Margaret of Anjou.
With the arrival of Margaret — a woman who wields her power very unwisely — the book descends into the series of nail-biting battles that mark the War of the Roses. Margaret, only 15 when she is taken from France to England for her marriage, assumes uncustomary decision-making because of the king's mental state, which sends him into long periods of somnolence.
Jacquetta and Richard, meanwhile, suffer long bouts of separation while Richard serves the king in France, but the couple remain loyal to the throne, even while Margaret incites strife and destruction throughout England by excluding from her council lords from the House of York who she believes are scheming against her.
Though based on a true story, it seems implausible that Jacquetta gives birth to 14 children (one does not survive past boyhood). It also seems implausible that she leaves her children for long periods of time to serve the reviled queen. But such must have been the custom of medieval courtiers.
It isn't until the Battle of Towton — when an estimated 28,000 men died on the snowy battlefield — that Richard and his son Anthony, both of whom survive the battle, renounce House of Lancaster for the victorious House of York. The family of 16, plus Jacquetta's two grandchildren whose father was killed in battle, live quietly at their country manor until one day the new king, young Edward, sees Jaquetta's beautiful oldest daughter and her two sons on a tour of his new lands.
But don't stop there — read to the very end of the book, where you'll see a sneak-preview of what results from that chance encounter in Gregory's next book, "The Kingmaker's Daughter," due out in August, 2012.
When she is still young, Jacquetta hears a wise woman and herbalist tell her, "Any woman who dares to make her own destiny will always put herself in danger" — a prophecy that eventually plays itself out for Jacquetta in the tale of her daughter, who becomes the White Queen.
Catherine Fahy, seen here with her children in MA where they live, will be a recurring guest blogger on A Bookish Dame. She is a former journalist who is taking time out to raise her family...and keeping her hands busy here and there writing. We are deliriously happy to have her join us here!
Catherine rates this book 5 stars!