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on 17 September 2011
On this magical fictional journey (based on fact) through history, we get to experience Jacquetta's life by her side.

Before we begin the story there are family trees (if you read my reviews you will know I love to see a family tree!) detailing the houses of York, Lancaster and Tudor in the summer of 1430.

The story begins in a cell in Castle Beaurevoir (1430) where we see Jacquetta become friends with Joan of Arc and then we journey with her through her marriage to John, the Duke of Bedford and on to her life as the wife of Richard Woodville and confidant to Queen Margaret.

As the Duke of Bedford's wife we see her welcomed in London and obeying his rules. Throughout her marriage to Richard we see her grow as a woman with much importance in her own relationship as well as that alongside Queen Margaret.

We see what happens in a man's world when a woman walks to the beat of her own drum and experience betrayal and deaths. The fear of living on the edge, not knowing who you can turn to is a page turner in itself!

History really does come to life in this book with the rival cousins at court ...with all the politics and alliances that are made and broken and the day-to-day living at court. We get a brief glimpse of how the peasants/commoners live and a chance to spend time at the edge of a battle.

I thought that Joan of Arc's demise was powerfully portrayed as seen from Jacquetta's perspective.

I really enjoyed our journey into alchemy and was heartbroken with Jacquetta when she heard the song of Melusina. This aspect of the gift she inherits, a song likened to that of the music of the spheres, is torture. Not enough time to do anything constructive but the knowledge that a family member will be leaving this earth.

Alongside the court intrigue and history, we watch Richard and Jaquetta's relationship spark and grow. In it's early days it survives the fact that she married beneath her and during the cousins differences, survives the distance separating them. Their relationship offsets the negativity that accompanies an unstable court.

I love it that this book is based on a real character from history. The author pieced together evidence of Jacquetta's life and has woven the fact into an absorbing world. There is a lot of truth in The Lady of the Rivers.

Anyone with a love of history, heroines who struggle to find their way in a man's world and find their power will enjoy this book. You won't be disappointed. I would love to see more women from history researched and brought into public awareness! We need a balanced view - not just the `great' men that shaped the world.

I would like to thank the publisher's for sending me a copy and enriching my world for an absorbing week!
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on 17 September 2011
Third in the Cousins' War series this novel concentrates on Jaquetta, mother of the White Queen,Elizabeth Woodville.It is not necessary to read the other two books first,they each stand alone.
This is a sweeping story covering Jaquetta's early life in France where she meets Joan of Arc, a marriage of convenience when she marries an English Duke and one for love to Richard Woodville of Grafton Manor, Northamptonshire.She has gifts which enable her see the future, and with her intellect, beauty and ambition she soon becomes a leading figure in the royal court of Margaret of Anjou and the ailing Henry VIth.
A huge amount of research has been put into the writing which supports the romantic aspects of the novel and make them credible.The rival dynasties of Lancaster and York fight for power while the people of England suffer immense poverty .If you yawned your way through the never ending Wars of the Roses at school, as I did, this book certainly puts meat on the bones . It is worth reading for the historical detail and the fascinating thread of alchemy and witchcraft which runs through this and earlier novels by Philippa Gregory.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 September 2011
Having read the first two books in the Cousins' War Trilogy, and having been desperately disappointed by them both, I sent away for this one more in hope than anticipation. However, I was pleasantly surprised as this represents a return to something like form with a tale which is character driven, historically vibrant and slightly less focussed on magic, although that element remains.

Jacquetta's arrival on the world stage into the turmoil of Joan of Arc's short lived but successful career as a king maker, is extremely well done. Even in an age accustomed to almost daily brutality, the cruelty of Joan's trial and execution was acute and shocking to its witnesses, one of whom gruesomely is Jacquetta. Joan was judicially murdered by men who could not stomach her gender and her achievements. There is no doubt that the young Jacquetta, although high born and wealthy, will also be subject to male control. Swept up by the all powerful Duke of Bedford, for reasons other than lust, her odd first marriage and early widowhood give way to what seems, historically, to have been something of a medieval coup for a woman whose marriage was a matter of state policy - a love match with Richard Woodville, paid for with no more than a hefty fine. As the fruitful Lady Rivers, she soon finds herself back in the maelstrom of royal politics when she becomes lady in waiting to young Margaret of Anjou, bride of the fragile, inadequate and easily dominated King Henry VI. Margaret's need for love, for an heir and for support to keep her ailing husband on his throne, lead inexorably to the Wars of the Roses.

In between her multiple, and amazingly uncomplicated, pregnancies, Jacquetta's role provides her with a ringside seat in the turbulent theatre of war, conquest, triumph and disaster that ended with Edward of March claiming both the throne and J's eldest daughter, Elizabeth Woodville. Jacquetta and her family move even closer to the throne, as Elizabeth becomes The White Queen, future mother of the princes in the Tower.

Jacquetta's story is overdue for telling and this book has drawn a sympathetic portait of a powerful, but little known career in pre-Tudor politics.
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on 16 June 2012
I used to love Philippa Gregory. Unfortunately everything she now publishes is rushed, poorly written and badly edited. Her readers aren't stupid - the dialogue is banal and clunky in some places as she spells out who is who through it. For example, "you know Richard, Duke of York is coming." Then two pages later, "Richard, Duke of York is here". Fine a couple of times, but this goes on through the whole book - surely by the end we know who is for York and who is for Lancaster. And I'm fairly sure the characters don't need reminding that their cousin or whoever is Duke or Earl of wherever.
I enjoyed the story though - Jacquetta's life is very interesting and it's nice reading fiction about a woman who's not 'over-done' eg. Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I. I just keep wishing every time a new PG book comes out that she will have taken her time, not been pushed by the publishers to release it, and is not just writing by numbers. Unfortunately she is a long way from her earlier (excellent) novels such as Meridon, The Boleyn Inheritance, The Queen's Fool etc.
This isn't her worst (that prize definitely goes to 'The Other Queen' which I couldn't even finish. But by no means is it her best either.
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on 15 September 2011
The Lady of the Rivers is the third novel in Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series, each book featuring a different lady who lived during the War of the Roses. The best thing about Philippa's books is the fact that you don't need to read them in any specific order. They are not written as a series but rather about the lives of individual women. This one focuses on Jacquetta of Luxembourg, a supposed descendant of the water goddess Melusina, first lady and close friend to Queen Margaret of Anjou, and mother of Elizabeth Woodville. The story follows her throughout her life, from her friendship with Joan of Arc, to her marriage to the English Duke of Bedford, uncle of Henry VI, and her being widowed at the age of 19 and choosing to marry for love.

Jacquetta is a woman quite neglected by history, one of the many women whose lives were almost lost in the depths of history because she wasn't a man, and I believe this novel focuses on that quite strongly. There is a lot about how a woman should be subject to the men in her life and how she should never try to rule over men, that a wise woman can do so whilst maintaining an air of subordination. These were the issues that women faced in the 1400s and thus for this novel very relevant.

As well as this, there is a theme flowing throughout of magic and foresight as Jacquetta is said to have the gift of Melusina. Through her life the card1 `The Wheel of Fortune' is mentioned and referenced to, from her teen years with Joan of Arcs to her adult life towards the end of the novel. The card is even featured on the inner cover. Not only does it foretell that the characters' lives are never steady, that they can fall as high as they can rise, but it also presents the story itself as riding on the wheel of fortune.

I learnt something from reading The Lady of the Rivers, aside from who Jacquetta was, I always assumed that the War of the Roses was the Battle of Bosworth. I feel a little silly admitting it now because even when we were taught about the battle when I was 8, we were told that Lancaster and York held a lot of animosity for each other and with this battle and Henry marrying Richard's wife, this was finally at an end so I don't know why it never clicked but there you go. You'll be surprised what a book can teach you sometimes, I guess.

The way in which The Lady of the Rivers is written gives it a sense of an ongoing story rather than a recounting of historical events. It is very easy to get caught up in the flow of events and the emotion Philippa invests in her characters is so fantastic that I almost cried a couple of times. My only problem with it is that she doesn't put in very much detail and so I struggled to visualise the surroundings. I could picture vague images of medieval castles and English countryside but nothing really solid. There are times when the writing feels more like a sequence of events than a story and it feels a little disjointed. Much more is invested in the characters and their stories.

If you're worried about reading this book because you haven't read The White Queen or The Red Queen - don't. I haven't read those and this is a great read. In fact, The Lady of the Rivers would come before the first two in chronological order. It really doesn't matter which order you read them in or if you read them all. Philippa has crafted a great story and I can't wait until I get chance to read The Women of the Cousins' War, a companion about the three women in these first three books.
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Having read The White Queenand The Red Queen, I was keen to get hold of this, the third in "The Cousins' War Series". If you haven't read the other two though, don't be put off this, as each novel focuses on the story of a different female character rather than the series running in chronological order.
This book focuses on the life of a less well-known character than the two earlier books (The White Queen looked at Elizabeth Woodville, and the Red Queen on Margaret Beaufort), Jacquetta of Luxembourg, from her early life in France, through her first marriage to the Regent of France, the Lancastrian Duke of Bedford, then her love marriage to Richard Woodville, and beyond as mother of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of the Yorkist King, Edward IV. There are really no spoilers here as this much is historical fact.
Jacquetta had fascinated me from her appearance in the White Queen, and it was interesting to learn more about her, as Philippa Gregory weaves her magic of recreating a historical time and place in such a convincing way. Gregory's Jacquetta is given a touch of the ethereal with her almost sixth sense, and connection to the legendary European water spirit, Melusina. We see how women with special knowledge, such as herbalists were regarded with suspicion by a male dominated society, and how, in spite of the constraints upon them, women were able to have some influence over their own lives. This is perfect material for Philippa Gregory and she uses it to excellent effect in this extremely enjoyable novel. The historical Jacquetta was tainted with accusations of witchcraft, particularly by those who resented the rise of the Woodvilles within England.
I raced through this book, learned a lot from it, and would thoroughly recommend it to you if you enjoy pacey historical fiction, whether or not you've read the previous books in the series.
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on 23 January 2013
I am a self-confessed Philippa Gregory fan. It started after I saw "The Other Boleyn Girl" in Tesco one day. I was never really into Historical Fiction but something about the cover intrigued me. One weekend of reading and I was hooked so I have a lot to thank her for! I now pre-order all her novels in Hardback and even have a signed copy of a novel from when I attended one of her book tours. With this I am always going to be biased towards her novels.

That said, I do think this is a good book. Writing about women from pre-Tudor times means Philippa Gregory does have to fill in a lot of gaps and I got that feeling when reading the novel. The inclusion of Joan of Arc for example. Also the Melusina element and fortune telling gave the book a supernatural element but she has done this before in other books (most notably The Wise Woman) and I liked it. It is after all fiction.

If you have read her other novels in " The Cousin's War" then you will have already met Jacquetta, but I liked really getting to know her as a young woman. I found her story interesting. It wasn't a time in history I was familiar with but I found it easy to get to know the main characters and found myself understanding more of the events which took place later. It wasn't one of Philippa Gregory's best books but it wasn't the worst either (sorry The Other Queen). My main criticism is that given that this was book 3 in the series but took place earlier I would rather have read this before the first two, but that is just my preference for reading books in chronological order.

This is a good books for fans of the genre and is worth a read, but I don't think it would win over new fans the way some of her other novels have.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 September 2011
This review is based on an advanced copy obtained via Net Galley. There is always the chance the red pencil guy was allowed to go in and fix things prior to final publication...


**This review may be considered slightly spoilerish so enter at your own risk**

Lady of the Rivers is the third book in Gregory's Cousins' War series, and focuses on Jacquetta of Luxembourg. While staying in France with her uncle, Jacquetta *meets* imprisoned Joan of Arc and the two share some BFF time together with the tarot cards and the wheel of fortune. After Joan meets her unhappy end, the beauteous Jacquetta catches the eye of the powerful Duke of Bedford, uncle to young king Henry VI. Jacquetta's worries about being ravished by her older husband come to naught as he's more interested in using Jacquetta's virginal qualities to aid his experiments - experiments that have something to do with alchemy, the philosopher's stone and the unicorn. If you are scratching your head over this, rest assured I was doing the same thing. I didn't understand it then and I don't understand it now.

Her older husband eventually dies and Jacquetta waits for the King's councillors to choose another husband after her year of mourning. John's squire Richard Woodville has other ideas, and Jacquetta is willing to risk the king's wrath for the sake of true love. The marriage is a fruitful one and Jacquetta spends lots of time in the country producing one baby after another (yawn). The wheel of fortune spins again when the king marries Margaret of Anjou and Jacquetta is summoned to serve the new Queen, but that marriage isn't exactly smooth sailing, and one thing leads to another until a little dispute erupts between the houses of Lancaster and York.

That's about as much plot summary you'll get from me, I'd rather discuss the reading experience, starting with the repetitive text. The Melusine count exceeded twenty, and that's not counting the water/river/fishy woman references or the tally would be much higher. There are times when nothing much happens in Jacquetta and Richard's lives (making babies, cooling heels in Calais for a year waiting for the king to do something), and it would have served the story better just to fast forward a few years with a brief mention rather than more tedious detail on what isn't happening.

I don't understand the great need to repeat same words three times in a single sentence, over and over and over again (can't quote examples from the ARC, sorry). Then there are the mind-numbing reminders to the reader of who is who via the *as you know, Bob* method. Any time Jacquetta mentions her first husband in a conversation he is always my Lord John, Duke of Bedford. Margaret will mention her uncle in a conversation with an intimate friend as my uncle, the king of France (I think everyone at court would know that she was niece to the king of France). And Richard of York, reviled by all the Lancastrians is always always always (see, I can do things in threes) Richard Duke of York. Every time. I got it the first time, and did not need to be clubbed over the head with it over and over and over again.

The characters were all rather *meh*, neither good nor bad, just incredibly uninteresting. Instead of filling us in on the politics and intrigues of the court that caused these wars, we get endless exposition on the court on progress, as well as how Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset dotes on Margaret of Anjou, bringing her all those sweet little presents. All in all, a very disappointing read and not one I'd recommend for those wanting more background and insight into the Wars of the Roses - there are much better choices out there with Penman's fabulous Sunne in Splendor still being the gold standard. Library only, then buy it if you love it. Two stars.

*Thanks to you know who for coining the as you know Bob phrase and letting me use it :)
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on 20 August 2013
This was my favourite book of this series. I really love the way Phillippa Gregory makes the characters come alive on the page. I have loved reading the different points of view of all these historical characters and watching them on screen too. This book gave more of an incite into where the characters had come from and how some of them may have spent their earlier lives. I will be trying to find out more about this period in history now.
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on 15 September 2011
Philippa Gregory focuses on the oft-ignored women in history - those who marry, mother, or somehow otherwise influence the lives of those "great men" that are more commonly known. The Lady of the Rivers is the third of Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series (The White Queen and The Red Queen being the others) which chart the course and culmination of the Wars of the Roses from the viewpoints of some of the key women involved: in the case of The Lady of the Rivers readers delve into the mind of Jacquetta, mother of Queen Elizabeth Woodville and great-grandmother of Henry VIII.

I enjoyed this book more as a guilty pleasure than anything else - like 1980s power ballads, watching Neighbours, and drinking tea through a straw - as I do love Philippa Gregory's gift of writing characters that are compelling enough that I actually care about their lives. However, and this should probably get a giant *SPOILERS/RANT* warning, I hated the implication that women are only able to be strong if they are either full of magic (yes, magic), at least slightly loose with their virtue, or a combination of the two. This does seem to be a theme with this Cousins' War series; the tale that the water goddess Melusina is an ancestress of Jacquetta (and therefore also of her children) gives an odd magical heritage that seems better placed in fantasy than in historical fiction. Witchcraft trials were reasonably common, yes, but that by no means points to the fact that England in the past was more like Hogwarts than anything else. *END OF SPOILERS/RANT*

Recommendation: If you're a fan of Philippa Gregory and her previous books, this will likely be an enjoyable experience that fills in a picture of the lives of some lesser known historical characters. If you enjoy witches with more than a whiff of power about them, then The Lady of the Rivers might delight you.

Review copy received from publisher.
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