One of my favorite genres is historical fiction although of late I have had little opportunity to read it. This is one of the reasons I was so excited to be apart of TLC’s Blog Tour for Emma Campion’s The King’s Mistress. Another reason was that that Alice Perrers as a subject or “character” is not one that I have much knowledge of. This meant a fresh and exciting look at a historical work that proved not only to be methodically researched, elegantly written but also truly personal in it’s search for who Alice was as a woman, mother, wife, widow and mistress.
History paints a cruel picture of Alice of Perrers. A woman who scrupulously attached herself to King Edward III and was even accused of using occult measures to do so. She was charged with abusing her favor with the King to promote those closest to her and gain monetary wealth for herself. She was said to maliciously wear the deceased Queen Phillipa’s jewels and believed to have always been aiming for a station in life much higher than that for which she was born. But what if she was not this woman? What is she was simply a pawn, a commoner woman who owed allegiance to her King and had no choice but to obey? What if she in the end craved only a quiet life with her children and a strong gentle husband by her side? What if the history we have been taught once again is wrong? History is not kind to women…this we know but it is even more critical of those we consider to have “fallen”.
It is on this premise that Emma Campion (the world’s foremost scholar on Alice Perrers) has based her novel. In it she shows how Alice’s life was taken from her at an early age with betrothal, betrayal and ultimately a true love that led her to be viewed as something she was not. What Campion has done is made Alice not only a historical character of the middle ages but a real woman. Her writing is wonderfully woven into a tale that keeps the reader enthralled and emotionally invested in Alice and her future. However it is Campion’s knowledge of the Middle Ages, Alice Perrers and the world that surrounded her that shines through. Campion is not only a writer but a scholar and it is evident throughout the work. The detail of fabrics and the art of dress, English estates and the court of King Edward III are astounding and truly transport the reader to that world. The King’s Mistress is a book not to be missed especially for lovers of historical fiction that enjoy well researched works that still flow as fiction into a story that can sweep readers away. In my opinion I see Campion on the level of Margaret George (my personal favorite writer of historical fiction) due to her depth and perception of the time in which she writes. For me this is the ultimate compliment for an author of historical fiction. That being said…don’t miss The King’s Mistress or any future writings of Campion herself.
Thanks to TLC Tours for the opportunity to read and review The King’s Mistress. It was indeed a pleasure.