Thursday, July 4, 2013

Book Review: Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith


Jane Lambert, the quick-witted and alluring daughter of a silk merchant, is twenty-two and still unmarried. When Jane’s father finally finds her a match, she’s married off to the dull, older silk merchant William Shore. Marriage doesn’t stop Jane from flirtation, however, and when the king’s chamberlain, Will Hastings, comes to her husband’s shop, Will knows King Edward will find her irresistible.

Edward IV has everything: power, majestic bearing, superior military leadership, a sensual nature, and charisma. And with Jane as his mistress, he also finds true happiness. But when his hedonistic tendencies get in the way of being the strong leader England needs, his life, as well as those of Jane and Will Hastings, hangs in the balance. Jane must rely on her talents to survive as the new monarch, Richard III, bent on reforming his brother’s licentious court, ascends the throne.

This dramatic tale has been an inspiration to poets and playwrights for five hundred years, and, as told through the unique perspective of a woman plucked from obscurity and thrust into a life of notoriety, Royal Mistress is sure to enthrall today’s historical fiction lovers as well.

Touchstone | May 7, 2013 | 512 pages

My Review

3 Stars

Royal Mistress, the latest release from historical novelist Anne Easter Smith, is a tale of Jane Shore, best known for being mistress to English King Edward IV.  The novel opens just before a young Jane Lambert, daughter of a prominent merchant, is married off to William Shore, a man several years older.  William, however, has little interest in his new wife and Jane quickly becomes dissatisfied with her union, especially as it fails to produce much longed for children.  But a chance meeting with Will Hastings, chamberlain and closest friend to Edward IV, will change Jane's life forever, as Will soon introduces her to the King himself.  Captivated by Jane's beauty and sweet nature, it isn't long before Jane becomes mistress to the King.  While Jane is happy with the King, being Edward's mistress isn't without its drawbacks, and Jane must be wary of those who seek to bring her down. 

Novels set during the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III always appeal to me, especially those that feature the monarchs themselves as important characters.  Although I've recently read a couple of other novels in which Jane Shore is the principal protagonist, I was interested to see how Anne Easter Smith portrayed her.  Easter Smith's Jane is a charming, sweet and good-natured woman, one who always seeks to help others.  It is not difficult to understand why Jane was beloved by Edward and Will Hastings, as well as by the Londoners whose interests she always looked out for.   While I appreciate her appeal, overall I found Jane to be a somewhat boring character and wasn't overly interested in her story.  For me, the strongest aspect of this novel was the sections involving Richard III.  Although I've not yet read Easter Smith's other novels, I am familiar with the fact that she is pro-Richard III.  For this reason I was very curious to see how she characterized him and how she explained some of his actions or those associated with his reign (e.g., the Princes in the Tower).  I wasn't disappointed by Easter Smith's interpretation of the much maligned monarch.   

While the focus of Royal Mistress is on Jane Shore's life, given Jane's relationship with Edward, Anne Easter Smith is also able to provide readers with an interesting glimpse into the politics of Edward IV's court.  Proponents of Richard III will surely be satisfied with his portrayal in this novel.  While I didn't find Jane Shore to be all that compelling of a character, which I acknowledge could simply be a result of my already having read about her recently, I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in reading a fictionalized account of her life. 

Note: I  received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

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