Another historical fiction, I did not plan for this.
The King’s Mistress by Emma Campion is the story of growing up of one woman–Alice Salisbury. It starts with her marriage at a very, very, young age of 13 (or was it 14?). Her life was never once stable once she was betrothed.
Sometimes I tended to forget she was just a child, the tone of the story made her seem older than her age. There was a naivety to her, in some parts that of a child and in others of a person inexperienced. At certain times, it would seem like she has a strong voice but then it would just fall away. She sometimes gave off the feeling of an abuse victim.
Often times the reason I do not read historical fiction is because I find it hard to relate to the societal norms of those times, I could hardly understand why they thought the way they did (maybe speculate, understand? no). One such example is the marrying off of the daughters of the household at such a young age which happens in this book.
The thing that confounded me in this story was Alice’s ability to trust someone (anyone) when she was betrayed time and again. Even more so, I didn’t understand her trust in Edward’s sons despite their actions. It also intrigued me that she never once felt like dying. There was a lot of portrayal of sorrow and despair but she didn’t think once to end her life. A survivor.
The story painted a good picture of women in those times as well as the expectations upon them. I would have to say though that Alice was not someone who was easy to relate to especially after Janyn. She asks in the story, ‘When had I a choice to be other than I was?’ The thing is, I don’t think she wanted to be anything but that.
I would have liked to see more of her being a clever businesswoman as she was said to be, however those moments were way too little, almost non-existent, the only thing shown avidly was her knowledge of clothes.
Overall, although it is not page-turning-exciting and there are many a similar story and tone, it is not altogether a bad read.
Goodreads Insert: When had I choice to be other than I was? From childhood Alice Salisbury has learnt obedience in all things and at fourteen, dutifully marries the man her father has chosen for her – at the cost of losing the love of her mother forever and the family she holds dear.
But merchant Janyn Perrers is a good and loving husband and Alice soon learns to enjoy her marriage. Until a messenger brings news of his disappearance and she discovers that her husband had many secrets, secrets he didn’t want her to know – but which have now put a price on her own head and that of her beloved daughter. Brought under the protection of King Edward III and Queen Philippa, she must dutifully embrace her fate once more – as a virtual prisoner at Court.
And when the king singles her out for more than just royal patronage, she knows she has little choice but to accept his advances. But obeying the king brings with it many burdens as well as pleasures, as she forfeits her good name to keep her daughter free from hurt. (I am not entirely convinced she did this to ‘keep her daughter free from hurt’, she wanted it)
Still a young woman and guided by her intellect and good business sense, she learns to use her gifts as wisely as she can. But as one of the king’s favorites, she brings jealousy and hatred in her wake and some will stop at nothing to see her fall from grace.