Wednesday, September 4, 2013

REVIEW: Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith

Synopsis: Jane Lambert, the quick-witted and alluring daughter of a silk merchant, is twenty-two and still unmarried. When Jane’s father finally finds her a match, she’s married off to the dull, older silk merchant William Shore. Marriage doesn’t stop Jane from flirtation, however, and when the king’s chamberlain, Will Hastings, comes to her husband’s shop, Will knows King Edward will find her irresistible. 

Edward IV has everything: power, majestic bearing, superior military leadership, a sensual nature, and charisma. And with Jane as his mistress, he also finds true happiness. But when his hedonistic tendencies get in the way of being the strong leader England needs, his life, as well as those of Jane and Will Hastings, hangs in the balance. Jane must rely on her talents to survive as the new monarch, Richard III, bent on reforming his brother’s licentious court, ascends the throne.

My Thoughts: I have read my fair share of War of the Roses historical fiction but one subject I had not previously delved into was the life of any of Edward IV's mistresses.  Here Anne Easter Smith takes on Jane Lambert-dubbed the merriest mistress of the lot.  Having read and enjoyed two of Anne's other novels (A Rose for the Crown and Queen by Right) I knew what to expect going in-a hefty book that meticulously covers the time period and features a likable female character who you quickly become comfortable sharing a journey through history with.  Jane Lambert definitely fits that description as you cannot help but like her and feel pity for her circumstances throughout the novel.

She is a woman who is beautiful, smart, lively-a lady who fortune smiles upon but who is forced to make difficult decisions in the interest of self preservation due to the time period she lived in.  Here is someone who is forced into a loveless marriage, catches the eye of the most powerful man in the land and others in positions of power as well, and becomes well loved due to her generosity and amiable nature.  As Jane is to learn when one attains such a lofty position, jealousy ensues and it is easy to attract enemies.  The novel covers well known happenings during the time period including the mystery of the Princes in the tower and the issue of their legitimacy and as with the previous two novels I've read by this author, it paints Richard III in a much more favorable light.  While I liked Jane a great deal at times I thought she was too kind/generous/vulnerable for her own good.  I also could not figure out her inexplicable attraction to Thomas Grey, son of Elizabeth Woodville.  Given his actions in the novel I couldn't figure out how she pined for this man for so long and didn't see the true nature of his character.  She seemed smart in every other respect except this one.  I guess everyone has their Achilles' heel. 

What I do love most about this author's novels is that she takes characters that are footnotes in a much covered historical period and uses them to offer a unique perspective on that time and the people in it.  I feel like these untouchable royal figures become so much more real to me.  Don't let the size of the book stop you from picking this up.  Once you become immersed in Jane's story you'll be surprised at how fast you fly through the pages.

This book was provided to me by the publisher for review via NetGalley.  These are my honest thoughts on the book.