Philippa Gregory has become as notorious for covering the time period of the Wars of the Roses as she has the Tudor period. Gregory calls this time period “The Cousins’ War” and focuses her novels on the brilliant, fascinating, complex, and often times ignored women that made up the time period. Gregory has already covered the beautiful and cunning Elizabeth Woodville and the pious and ambitious Margaret Beautfort and now her focus comes to Jacquetta Woodville, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville and descendent of Melusina, the river goddess. “The Lady of the Rivers” tells the story of the once-duchess, mother of a queen, and a woman who held the power of second-sight.
“The Lady of the Rivers” follows Jacquetta’s life from her childhood to when her daughter catches the attention of King Edward IV. Jacquetta first befriends Joan of Arc during her early comfortable imprisonment. Both young girls bond as they have gifts of seeing what shall come. Jacquetta is left impacted by Joan’s execution and finds herself convinced that it is dangerous to be a woman in a man’s world. Jacquetta captivates the elderly John, Duke of Beford, uncle to the young king. He is captivated by her not for her beauty or charm, but because of her being a descendant of Melusina and having the gift of second sight. The Duke of Bedford marries Jacquetta for this gift, but it is a loveless marriage. Jacquetta ends up being drawn to the young and handsome faithful squire of the duke, Richard Woodville. Richard and Jacquetta give into their passion and love after the death of the Duke of Bedford. They have a happy and fruitful marriage with many children, but soon the drama of the Wars of the Roses with the conflict between the Yorkists and Lancastrians put them in the middle. Richard and Jacquetta struggle to stay safe and secure in a world full of wars, shifting alliances, and loss. The novel ends with Jacquetta’s beautiful widowed daughter, Elizabeth catching the eye of the new king, King Edward IV, a vision Jacquetta once strangely saw.
“The Lady of the Rivers” has possibility, but it fails to execute. Jacquetta was a much more interesting figure in “The White Queen” and “The Red Queen”, but in a novel centered around her, she fails to shine. Gone is the mystery and allure of Jacquetta and her ancestry and instead you have a woman who follows around her two husbands and the demanding Margaret of Anjou. Jacquetta seems to have no personality except her being a descendant of Melusina and having second sight. She comes off as a dull and forgettable character.
The novel also ends at an unfortunate time. Ending with Jacquetta’s daughter charming King Edward is a missed opportunity. Readers would probably rather read about Jacquetta’s role in her daughter becoming queen, the benefits she reaped, going head-to-head with formidable foes such as Cecily Neville, Duchess of York and Margaret Beaufort, and of course, the death of her beloved husband, Richard in yet another battle for the throne. Jacquetta’s life is way more interesting when her daughter becomes Queen of England.
“The Lady of the Rivers” is simply not as memorable of a novel as “The White Queen” and “The Red Queen” which is sad because the story of Jacquetta Woodville could have been so much more.
To purchase “The Lady of the Rivers”: http://www.amazon.com/Lady-Rivers-Novel-Cousins-War/dp/1416563709
For more information on Philippa Gregory: http://www.philippagregory.com/