Lady of the Rivers is the third book in Gregory’s Cousins’ War series, and focuses on Jacquetta of Luxembourg. While staying in France with her uncle, Jacquetta *meets* imprisoned Joan of Arc and the two share some BFF time together with the tarot cards and the wheel of fortune. After Joan meets her unhappy end, the beauteous Jacquetta catches the eye of the powerful Duke of Bedford, uncle to young king Henry VI. Jacquetta’s worries about being ravished by her older husband come to naught as he’s more interested in using Jacquetta’s virginal qualities to aid his experiments – experiments that have something to do with alchemy, the philosopher’s stone and the unicorn. If you are scratching your head over this, rest assured I was doing the same thing. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t understand it now.
Her older husband eventually dies and Jacquetta waits for the King’s councilers to choose another husband after her year of mourning. John’s squire Richard Woodville has other ideas, and Jacquetta is willing to risk the king’s wrath for the sake of true love. The marriage is a fruitful one and Jacquetta spends lots of time in the country producing one baby after another (yawn). The wheel of fortune spins again when the king marries Margaret of Anjou and Jacquetta is summoned to serve the new Queen, but that marriage isn’t exactly smooth sailing, and one thing leads to another until a little dispute erupts between the houses of Lancaster and York.
That’s about as much plot summary you’ll get from me, I’d rather discuss the reading experience, starting with the repetitive text. The Melusine count exceeded twenty, and that’s not counting the water/river/fishy woman references or the tally would be much higher. There are times when nothing much happens in Jacquetta and Richard’s lives (making babies, cooling heels in Calais for a year waiting for the king to do something), and it would have served the story better just to fast forward a few years with a brief mention rather than more tedious detail on what isn’t happening.
I don’t understand the great need to repeat same words three times in a single sentence, over and over and over again (can’t quote examples from the ARC, sorry). Then there are the mind-numbing reminders to the reader of who is who via the *as you know, Bob* method. Any time Jacquetta mentions her first husband in a conversation he is always my Lord John, Duke of Bedford. Margaret will mention her uncle in a conversation with an intimate friend as my uncle, the king of France (I think everyone at court would know that she was niece to the king of France). And Richard of York, reviled by all the Lancastrians is always always always (see, I can do things in threes :)) Richard Duke of York. Every time. I got it the first time, and did not need to be clubbed over the head with it 😦
The characters were all rather *meh*, neither good nor bad, just incredibly uninteresting. Instead of filling us in on the politics and intrigues of the court that caused these wars, we get endless exposition on the court on progress, as well as how
Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset dotes on Margaret of Anjou, bringing her all those sweet little presents. All in all, a very disappointing read and not one I’d recommend for those wanting more background and insight into the Wars of the Roses – there are much better choices out there with Penman’s fabulous Sunne in Splendor still being the gold standard. Library only, then buy it if you love it. Two stars.
**This review is based upon a digital ARC received from Net Galley and might differ from the final edition.