The Lady of the Rivers is #3 in Philippa Gregory's The Cousins' War series. The story is about Jacquetta of Luxembourg, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, and is a prequel to The White Queen, ending neatly at the exact moment that story begins. With hindsight, I wish I'd read this book first, as it explains the tensions leading up to the start of the Wars of the Roses, something I never fully understood (maybe I should have paid more attention at school!). It explains who all the leading players were, and their motivations, which is a great help when many of them switched sides - and then back again!
The story starts with Jacquetta at the home of her uncle, making friends with one of his prisoners of war, a young girl named Joan, who says she hears the voice of God. As Joan has been advising the Dauphin of France in his war against the English, understandably the English want Joan dead. Sure enough, they burn her at the stake, for being a heretic, witch and traitor. And Jacquetta learns two important lessons (1) To keep quiet about her own visions and (2) That the wheel of fortune 'can thrown a woman so high in the world that she can command a king, or pull her down to this: a dishonoured agonising death'.
But Jacquetta has caught the eye of the most important man in France - the 'elderly' Regent, John, Duke of Bedford and brother to the English King Henry V - but not in the way she thinks. The Duke wants her to predict the future of England, but all she sees are a ring shaped like a golden crown, battle after bloody battle, and a queen with her horse at a forge, putting the horseshoes on backwards ...
I think this is my favourite of the series so far. It shows the beginning of the amnosity between the House of Lancaster and the House of York, something I never really understood. I loved the character of Jacquetta, a strong woman who never really wanted the power she had, who learned to conceal her gift of second sight and anything else which might be construed as 'witchy'. Unlike the previous two books, The White Queen and The Red Queen, Jacquetta is often right at the heart of the action - with her own life, as well as those of her husband and children, in peril. She is feistier than Elizabeth Woodville (The White Queen) and a lot more likeable than Margaret Beaufort (The Red Queen).
A fascinating woman, an exciting read - and definitely recommended!
The White Queen (#1 The Cousins' War) by Philippa Gregory
The Red Queen (#2 The Cousins' War) by Philippa Gregory