Friday, May 4, 2012
Review: "The King's Concubine" by Anne O'Brien
From Goodreads: One marriage. Three people. Proud king. Loving wife. Infamous mistress.
1362, Philippa of Hainault selects a young orphan from a convent. Alice Perrers, a girl born with nothing but ambition. The Queen has a role waiting for her at court.
‘I have lifted you from nothing Alice. Now you repay me.'
Led down the corridors of the royal palace the young virgin is secretly delivered to King Edward III - to perform the wifely duties of which ailing Philippa is no longer capable. Power has a price, and Alice Perrers will pay it.
Mistress to the King. Confidante of the Queen. Whore to the court. Her fate is double edged; loved by the majesties, ostracised by her peers. Alice must balance her future with care as her star begins to rise - the despised Concubine is not untouchable.
Politics and pillow talk are dangerous bedfellows. The fading great King wants her in his bed. Her enemies want her banished. One mistake and Alice will face a threat worse than any malicious whispers of the past.
My Thoughts: I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I have heard of Alice Perrers in passing but I have not read anything about her and really know very little about her life. So when I got the opportunity to read this book, I jumped at it. I know in my reviews, I talk a lot about how this or that character was a strong female lead but I always prefer a book with strong female lead and this book nailed it. I loved Anne O'Brien's creation of Alice as a strong woman who pulled herself up by her bootstraps and was able to deal with adversity. Granted, she obtained a lot of her funds because she was the king's mistress but I think O'Brien made Alice sympathetic enough that I didn't think of her as prostituting herself out. She truly loved the king and he cared about her; yes, she took advantage of the situation but I could see where she was coming from. At times I did feel like O'Brien made her a little too Scarlett O'Hara-esque ("As God as my witness, I'll never go hungry again!") but considering that she came from nothing and her goal was to ensure that she, and her children, would be secure, it didn't bother me that much. Overall, Alice was one tough cookie and I enjoyed her as a character. Was she like that in real life? Who knows but if I had to imagine her, I would like to think she was as O'Brien described her.
I didn't know what to expect when I picked this book up but I have to say the story was really good. The King's Concubine was engaging and kept me wanting to know more. I thought it might be a little too much romance for me but really the story isn't about this epic love between Edward and Alice. It had just enough romance for my taste without it overpowering the rest of the story. Most of the characters were very believable though I had a hard time believing that Phillipa loved her husband so much she would hand pick a mistress for him. I loved the two extremely hateful princesses, Joan and Isabella, and their conversations with Alice were great. I like a well-written snarky conversation and this book had it. As always, I appreciated the author's note at the end of the book which gave a detailed explanation as to what was, and was not, historically accurate. I am definitely going to start looking for books about Edward III and hopefully, I will be able to find out more about Alice Perrers. 4 stars.