Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Book Review: The King's Concubine

Author: Anne O'Brien
Title: The King's Concubine
Publisher: NAL Trade/Mira UK
Publish Date: June 5, 2012
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley
Book Blurb: A child born in the plague year of 1348, abandoned and raised within the oppressive walls of a convent, Alice Perrers refused to take the veil, convinced that a greater destiny awaited her. Ambitious and quick witted, she rose above her obscure beginnings to become the infamous mistress of Edward III. But always, essentially, she was alone... Early in Alice’s life, a chance meeting with royalty changes everything: Kindly Queen Philippa, deeply in love with her husband but gravely ill, chooses Alice as a lady-in-waiting. Under the queen’s watchful eye, Alice dares to speak her mind. She demands to be taken seriously. She even flirts with the dynamic, much older king. But she is torn when her vibrant spirit captures his interest...and leads her to a betrayal she never intended. In Edward’s private chambers, Alice discovers the pleasures and paradoxes of her position. She is the queen’s confidante and the king’s lover, yet she can rely only on herself. It is a divided role she was destined to play, and she vows to play it until the bitter end. Even as she is swept up in Edward’s lavish and magnificent court, amassing wealth and influence for herself, becoming an enemy of his power-hungry son John of Gaunt, and a sparring partner to resourceful diplomat William de Windsor, she anticipates the day when the political winds will turn against her. For when her detractors voice their hatred,and accusations of treason swirl around her,threatening to destroy everything she has achieved, who will stand by Alice then?

Review: Stories about the mistresses of Kings have always intrigued me. This story was made even more so because I had just read The King Must Die, which was about Edward's mother and his early years on the throne.

Not much is known about Alice Perrers, other than she served as a Lady in Waiting to Queen Phillipa and that she became the King's Mistress. Oh and she was intensely disliked by most people.

I think the why's of that dislike are pretty obvious.

Edward and Phillipa had a very good marriage as far as royalty is concerned. Yes, they loved each other. That's what makes the way O'Brien brings King and Lady together a little bit hard to take. Anne suggests that Alice became Edward's lover because the Queen wanted her too, because her illness prevented her from enjoying the marriage bed any longer.


I'm not sure if that idea works well with me, but somehow Alice, who was obviously low born, made it to the inner circles of the monarchy. Lowborn though she was, she was also, oddly for that time, a very astute businesswomen.

This book does a lot to cast a more favorable light on Alice, mostly in the fact that she harbors some love for Edward, but I'm not sure if she deserved the light to be cast on her. Let's face it, she was greedy and power hungry. She managed to accumulate 50 manors during her time as the King's Mistress, and she even managed to get them back after a corruption trial. (She could have lost her  life there, but she managed too to talk her way out of it)

I think if one thing can be said for Alice Perrers, it is that she was a woman hundreds of years before her time. In truth, I couldn't like Alice as I read this book. I could admire her though, because she rose from the ashes and for a time, ruled a kingdom.

Rating:4 flowers


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