This is the latest in Gregory’s series “The Cousins’ War,” in which each novel deals with one of the strong female characters from the Wars of the Roses era. So far she’s written about Elizabeth Woodville (The White Queen) and about Margaret Beaufort (The Red Queen). Now, abandoning the chess theme in her titles, Gregory turns her attention to Elizabeth Woodville’s mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg.
If you don’t know the time period well in can be a bit confusing reading these novels as they come out, since the story doesn’t unfold in chronological order. The events of Lady of the Rivers take place well before those of The White Queen; here we see how the circumstances of Jacquetta’s life unfold in such a way that she, a close friend and supporter of the Lancastrian queen Marguerite d’Anjou, was able to support and encourage her daughter’s marriage to Edward of York, who seized the throne from Henry of Lancaster. Switching allegiances was a survival tactic in that turbulent era, and this story show Jacquetta as a consummate survivor.
She seems a warmer, gentler character than she did in her supporting role in The White Queen, but it’s been awhile since I read that book so I may be remembering it wrong. The Red Queen is still by far my favourite of this series of novels, but I definitely enjoyed this book as well. There are so many great, powerful female characters in this period of English history that a novelist like Gregory has enough material to keep her busy for years — I hear that her next novel is going to focus on Warwick’s daughters, and she hasn’t even touched on Cecily Neville or on Marguerite d’Anjou as a viewpoint character yet, both of whom would make great main characters for a novel. I’m looking forward to the next installment.