When had I a choice to be other than I was?
From childhood Alice Salisbury has learnt obedience in all things and at fourteen dutifully marries the man her father has chosen for her - at the cost of losing for ever the love of her mother and the family she holds dear. But merchant Janyn Perrers is a good and loving husband and Alice soon learns to enjoy her marriage. Until a messenger brings news of his disappearance and she discovers that her husband had many secrets - secrets which have now put a price on her own head and that of her beloved daughter. Brought under the protection of King Edward III and Queen Philippa she must obediently embrace her fate once more - as a virtual prisoner at Court. And when the king singles her out for more than just royal patronage she knows she has little choice but to accept his advances. But obeying the king brings with it many burdens as well as pleasures, as she forfeits her good name to keep her daughter free from hurt. Still a young woman and guided by her intellect and good business sense, she learns to use her gifts as wisely as she can. But as one of the king's favourites she brings jealousy and hatred in her wake and some will stop at nothing to see her fall from grace.
The is Emma Campion's first novel, she has been a researcher of medieval history for many years.
From the beginning, I realised this was going to be one of those books that takes even the best of readers time to read. Emma has taken Alice Salisbury and instead of portraying her as a scrupulous money grabber (which is how many writers of the time portrayed her), twists it to make people see that she may have just been a pawn in other peoples' games. It shows her dutifully doing as she is told while at the same time battling for her kids' futures. I like this twist because it makes people sit up and realise that jealousy, hatred and teachings of the time can distort the truth. After all, didn't the church preach about conniving, sinful women?
The book is written from Alice's 'POV'. It shows her going from an innocent 14 year old who knows little of the world, struggling to gain her jealous mother's love to finally finding the peace all of us crave for in our life. On the way there, she must tangle with a marriage that is fraught with royal secrets, finds herself at court having to pretend she never had married, fighting feelings regarding her loyalties to her king and queen, see her king and lover deteriorate before her eyes while trying to hide that deterioration from the public, and then face the full force of a court's jealousy that forces her into an unwanted marriage and the hard fight to regain what is rightfully hers.
Unlike other authors who focus on just the historical events in historic books, the historical events mainly become a backdrop to Alice's life. Emma has kept the events in correct order but has also added some of her own, which she freely admits to. This makes it easier for the reader to seperate the fact from the fiction.
If her future books are anything like this, I'll find myself straining at the leash in anticipation!