Here’s a period in English history I’m barely familiar with: Edward III and the Hundred Years’ War. This book focuses on Joan of Kent (“the Fair Maid of Kent”), who ultimately married Edward the Black Prince and became the mother of Richard II. I’m thinking the “triple knot” of the title refers to Joan’s sticky three marriages, which make for very interesting reading.
THE PLOT: Poor Joan of Kent is one of those royal cousins who is too near the throne for comfort’s sake. She knows she’ll be used as a pawn in whatever alliance her cousin, Edward III, can most benefit from. But Edward’s young son Ned, the future Black Prince, has decided that someday Joan will be his queen. In the meantime, 12-year-old Joan meets and is instantly smitten with Thomas Holland, a young knight.
Some manipulation results in Joan marrying Thomas in secret and consummating the union. However, Joan’s mother and cousins refuse to acknowledge the marriage and instead marry her off to Will Montagu. For nine years, Joan and Thomas fight to annul her marriage to Will and have their marriage confirmed…and all the while, Ned lurks around, biding his time, knowing that no matter what, Joan will someday be HIS wife and queen. A tangled knot, indeed.
MY TWO CENTS: This is the kind of book that makes me want to get nonfiction and research the period. The author’s note helps the reader understand how much of the book is “real” and how much is imagined history…and I would have bought a lot more as “real.” It makes sense, though, that history didn’t record a lot of Joan’s early movements.
I feel that Joan and Thomas are an easy couple to root for. I also like that Ned is an ambivalent character…hero one minute, villain the next. As a reader, I was involved enough to want Joan to stay away from him, but you know that’s not going to happen.
Even though the cover indicates romance, this is a fairly clean book. The reader is mostly told that the deed has been done, with no details, which is what I prefer in my historical fiction.
NOTE OF CAUTION: There is an event of animal cruelty that reverberates throughout the entire book. If you are an animal lover, you’ll find this violence disturbing, but it does have a place in the narrative. (Funny how sometimes I get much more upset about descriptions of fictional animal violence than semi-nonfictional human violence.)
BOTTOM LINE: I very much enjoyed this book. I was willing to believe this was all true history, which is a sure sign of good historical fiction. I’ll definitely be picking up Emma Campion’s The King’s Mistress, about Edward III and Alice Perrers, and probably checking out her books written as Candace Robb as well.
TEACUP RATING: Five out of five teacups. Loved it! If you enjoy historical fiction, put this one on your reading list.
ON SALE DATE: The book is available now in paperback and ebook formats; audiobook will be available July 29, 2014.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.