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A child born in the plague year of 1348, abandoned and raised within the oppressive walls of a convent, Alice Perrers refused to take the veil, convinced that a greater destiny awaited her. Ambitious and quick witted, she rose above her obscure beginnings to become the infamous mistress of Edward III. But always, essentially, she was alone... Early in Alices life, a chance A child born in the plague year of 1348, abandoned and raised within the oppressive walls of a convent, Alice Perrers refused to take the veil, convinced that a greater destiny awaited her. Ambitious and quick witted, she rose above her obscure beginnings to become the infamous mistress of Edward III. But always, essentially, she was alone... Early in Alice’s life, a chance meeting with royalty changes everything: Kindly Queen Philippa, deeply in love with her husband but gravely ill, chooses Alice as a lady-in-waiting. Under the queen’s watchful eye, Alice dares to speak her mind. She demands to be taken seriously. She even flirts with the dynamic, much older king. But she is torn when her vibrant spirit captures his interest...and leads her to a betrayal she never intended. In Edward’s private chambers, Alice discovers the pleasures and paradoxes of her position. She is the queen’s confidante and the king’s lover, yet she can rely only on herself. It is a divided role she was destined to play, and she vows to play it until the bitter end. Even as she is swept up in Edward’s lavish and magnificent court, amassing wealth and influence for herself, becoming an enemy of his power-hungry son John of Gaunt, and a sparring partner to resourceful diplomat William de Windsor, she anticipates the day when the political winds will turn against her. For when her detractors voice their hatred,and accusations of treason swirl around her,threatening to destroy everything she has achieved, who will stand by Alice then? Includes a readers guide


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A child born in the plague year of 1348, abandoned and raised within the oppressive walls of a convent, Alice Perrers refused to take the veil, convinced that a greater destiny awaited her. Ambitious and quick witted, she rose above her obscure beginnings to become the infamous mistress of Edward III. But always, essentially, she was alone... Early in Alices life, a chance A child born in the plague year of 1348, abandoned and raised within the oppressive walls of a convent, Alice Perrers refused to take the veil, convinced that a greater destiny awaited her. Ambitious and quick witted, she rose above her obscure beginnings to become the infamous mistress of Edward III. But always, essentially, she was alone... Early in Alice’s life, a chance meeting with royalty changes everything: Kindly Queen Philippa, deeply in love with her husband but gravely ill, chooses Alice as a lady-in-waiting. Under the queen’s watchful eye, Alice dares to speak her mind. She demands to be taken seriously. She even flirts with the dynamic, much older king. But she is torn when her vibrant spirit captures his interest...and leads her to a betrayal she never intended. In Edward’s private chambers, Alice discovers the pleasures and paradoxes of her position. She is the queen’s confidante and the king’s lover, yet she can rely only on herself. It is a divided role she was destined to play, and she vows to play it until the bitter end. Even as she is swept up in Edward’s lavish and magnificent court, amassing wealth and influence for herself, becoming an enemy of his power-hungry son John of Gaunt, and a sparring partner to resourceful diplomat William de Windsor, she anticipates the day when the political winds will turn against her. For when her detractors voice their hatred,and accusations of treason swirl around her,threatening to destroy everything she has achieved, who will stand by Alice then? Includes a readers guide

30 review for The King's Concubine

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carla Coulston

    "Better than Philippa Gregory" says the bold statement on the cover. Oooh... Big Call. Gregory is one of the finest architects of what I call the Likeable Villianess: the abrasive, self-serving, yet ultimately sympathetic anti-heroine you love to hate. Finest of *these* times - might I add as a disclaimer - since Margaret Mitchell's wonderfully complex Scarlett O'Hara is arguably the doyenne of them all. Anne Boylen of The Other Boylen girl is probably Gregory's most famous creation (she puts the "Better than Philippa Gregory" says the bold statement on the cover. Oooh... Big Call. Gregory is one of the finest architects of what I call the Likeable Villianess: the abrasive, self-serving, yet ultimately sympathetic anti-heroine you love to hate. Finest of *these* times - might I add as a disclaimer - since Margaret Mitchell's wonderfully complex Scarlett O'Hara is arguably the doyenne of them all. Anne Boylen of The Other Boylen girl is probably Gregory's most famous creation (she puts the "evil" in Medieval... LOL) but I have always had a soft spot for her Beatrice, a lesser known, but beautifully shocking character from her Wildacre series. So does O'Brien, and her Alice Perrers, live up to the hype? It's a "yes". I'm not sure I'd go as far as to say this novel was BETTER than Gregory's work, as a sweeping whole, but it's most certainly on par with it and was thoroughly engrossing and enjoyable. Alice Perrers takes a firm fourth place as one of my favourite LV's, with a chutzpa to rival any of her courtly contemporaries. The very fact these women have... let's just say it, the balls to do the things they do, in the dangerous times they do them, is endlessly fascinating to me and this novel didn't disappoint on any level. It's also what I would call a good "value" novel - long, and meaty with plenty of plot and some fascinating language and trivia of the times hinting at a polished historian behind the pen. Thoroughly recommend!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Aoife

    3/3.5 stars At 17 years old, Alice Perrers became the mistress of King Edward III as his wife ailed with a debilitating illness. In The King's Concubine, Anne O'Brien brings to life the mystery of Alice and the real woman behind the rumours and the false accusations made against her. I really enjoyed Anne O'Brien's way of bringing to life Alice - a woman I never knew about before. But she was someone who I immediately was intrigued by when I began to learn how she accumulated wealth and what a 3/3.5 stars At 17 years old, Alice Perrers became the mistress of King Edward III as his wife ailed with a debilitating illness. In The King's Concubine, Anne O'Brien brings to life the mystery of Alice and the real woman behind the rumours and the false accusations made against her. I really enjoyed Anne O'Brien's way of bringing to life Alice - a woman I never knew about before. But she was someone who I immediately was intrigued by when I began to learn how she accumulated wealth and what a smart business woman she must have been. At a time when it was really hard/virtually impossible for a woman to own her own wealth, she basically became a property tycoon. And you have to respect that. It makes you think what she could have accomplished if she had been born in a different time as she obviously had a great mind, and a business savvy to boot. This book would never be described as action packed, it's quite long and for people who might be new to historical fiction, it could be a little bit boring - especially as for the majority of Alice's time as Mistress, times were peaceful and when they weren't, she wasn't privy to much. It's always interesting and infuriating to see how men vying for power will try and bring down a woman when she takes a step too far up the ladder of power herself, and this is exactly what happened to Alice. She also had a strong sense of pride in this book and this characterization of her which meant that often she said the wrong things and she would often let people think things about her rather than show any kind of weakness. I also felt in this book the real absence of a group of female companions for Alice - she was an extremely lonely and solitary character and the only people who she seemed to truly be friends with were her lover, and her lover's wife. Even in her marriage, she seemed to keep him at arm's length. I still enjoyed this book, and as always love to hear about a woman's place and time in history.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Alice Perrers the name painted by history is of an unattracive and manipulative woman who took advantage of King Edward III generosity for her own lust for power. This book though goes along way to rewriting the past to show Alice as a brave and loyal woman who paid a heavy price for her time with King and Queen. The story is of Alice growing up in 14th century England with her parents unknown, called a bastard child and doomed to live her life as a nun a life she does not wish on her self. Alice Perrers the name painted by history is of an unattracive and manipulative woman who took advantage of King Edward III generosity for her own lust for power. This book though goes along way to rewriting the past to show Alice as a brave and loyal woman who paid a heavy price for her time with King and Queen. The story is of Alice growing up in 14th century England with her parents unknown, called a bastard child and doomed to live her life as a nun a life she does not wish on her self. Alice is given a brief bit of freedom when she is taken to be a servant at a house and ends up in a loveless marriage to Janyn Perrers before the plague took in the household and she returned to the nunnery. That would be were she would meet Queen Philippa, a meeting that would change her life forever. Alice would be brought to the Queen, who no longer the young virtious woman she once was and unable to to please the king with bedly needs sees Alice to fill the role. Alice becomes the Kings mistress a role she initially takes on reluctantly but over time she becomes loyal to Edward. This partnership sees her become despised by many including daughters Isabella and Joan despite neither of them spending much time with there parents. When the Queen dies the only things saving Alice from losing everthing is first a fast fading King and her husband William De Windsor. When the King dies the vultures pounce as Alice faces the wrath of Parliament who is now in control of the country and has the ability to destroy her and everything she achieved. The Kings Concubine for me was a highly entertaining read and one that historical fiction buffs should consider. While not a great deal is known about Alice Anne O,Brien uses historical imagination to fill in the gaps. The book shows convincingly a blueprint of the time that to be a woman of any infulence you needed to be in wealthy or priveliged circles. To do what Alice did and end up accused of everything from withcract to manipulating people to achieve land and jewels would for me make her a remarkable woman and one ahead of her time. For anyone who likes historical fiction or is just interested in English history this is worth a read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gayle Pace

    REVIEW: Alice Perrers was born in the year of 1348 during the plague. She was raised in a convent. While at the convent Alice was quite a problem at times. She refused to take the veil. She believed that she had a bigger and better future in line for her.She left the horrid beginnings of her life behind her to become mistress to Edward III, but like always she was alone. Early in her life she met with royalty and that changes her entire life. Very much in love with her husband, Edward, Queen REVIEW: Alice Perrers was born in the year of 1348 during the plague. She was raised in a convent. While at the convent Alice was quite a problem at times. She refused to take the veil. She believed that she had a bigger and better future in line for her.She left the horrid beginnings of her life behind her to become mistress to Edward III, but like always she was alone. Early in her life she met with royalty and that changes her entire life. Very much in love with her husband, Edward, Queen Philippa picks Alice as a lady-in-waiting. The Queen was extremely sick. Alice speaks her mind, although sometimes she regrets it. She maintains that she be taken seriously. She puts the make on an even older king. She intended no betrayal but she captures the Kings heart. When in the privacy of the King's chambers, Alice finds the pleasures and satisfaction of her position. She is torn between being the Queen's confidante and being the King's mistress. She has herself , and only herself. She promises herself she will act this double role until the bitter end. Edward lavished her and she amassed wealth and influence for herself., but all along she is making enemies. Who is going to stand side by side with Alice when the walls come tumbling down on her? The story was told from Alice's point of view, in first person and this is how you begin understanding some of the things she does. Was Alice a gold-digging concubine or was she protecting herself for the future by taking what she could when she had the chance.? Did she not leave the King's side because she truly cared for him or was it because if she was not there, she wouldn't get anything.? These are just a few of the questions you will be asking yourself while reading. The answers are there. Alice lived a life as no other. I would recommend this book to anyone. You won't want to quit reading. There is no boredom in this book. This is a page-turner don't put down keeper. This is one magnificent book. I truly fell in love with the story and characters. I would give this book 10 Stars if I could but since I can't 5 STARS and that doesn't do it justice. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Manic Readers on behalf of the author, Anne O'Brien, for this unbiased review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Natasa

    This book is a great read; a very entertaining account of the life of Alice Perrers. The story is told from Alice's point of view, and the author draws you into the story. Anne O'Brien does a great job capturing the mood of the period, it transports you to the court of Edward III, with all their intrigue, beauty, and danger. I highly recommend it for any lover of historical fiction or history.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cristine

    Alice Perrers is a 14th century orphan sheltered and used by nuns who on a long and winding path becomes the mistress to King Edward III. She subsequently marries another man, William de Windsor, is banished, then unbanished, then rebanished and finally reinstated in civil society thanks to the great love of Windsor. As historical fiction, the book is loosely based on facts and tells Alice's side of the story. The author appears to be Alice's apologist and justifies her actions, especially when Alice Perrers is a 14th century orphan sheltered and used by nuns who on a long and winding path becomes the mistress to King Edward III. She subsequently marries another man, William de Windsor, is banished, then unbanished, then rebanished and finally reinstated in civil society thanks to the great love of Windsor. As historical fiction, the book is loosely based on facts and tells Alice's side of the story. The author appears to be Alice's apologist and justifies her actions, especially when explaining the relationship with the two people she betrayed the most: 1) Queen Phillippa, to whom she owes everything, as she brought her to the court in hopes that the King would select Alice as his mistress and 2) the King, who gave her a license to find another man. Alice has been painted as a manipulative, conniving vulture in history, but we didn't understand her soft, loyal side. When you get to know her you can see that her actions were justified. It is hard to believe until you realize that this book is a romance novel not historical fiction. If you look at the book as a romance novel, you can enjoy it as a kind of "mind-candy." A book club friend with a hard copy of the book saw the "Harlequin" mark on the back cover (I had an e-reader which does not have the Harlequin reference). That disclosure gave the right context to the book, Alice's story is a romance novel. Alice shares her bed with three men who respect her and show kindness and gentleness in three different ways. Love is a challenge and true love can overcome all. Classic romance novel themes. There are two flaws that make The King's Concubine less satisfying. First, the interview with the author and "Questions for Discussion" give the book an air of sophistication that is unearned. This is a romance novel. It's not Shakespeare and doesn't deserve the scrutiny of discussion questions. Secondly, Alice needs an editor. There were 200 pages of material in a 448 book, over half the book was meandering and repetitive. Edit the book and represent it for what it is and you have a pleasant Saturday read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Guy

    Stories about the mistresses of Kings have always intrigued me. This story was made even more so because I had just read The King Must Die, which was about Edward's mother and his early years on the throne. Not much is known about Alice Perrers, other than she served as a Lady in Waiting to Queen Phillipa and that she became the King's Mistress. Oh and she was intensely disliked by most people. I think the why's of that dislike are pretty obvious. Edward and Phillipa had a very good marriage as far Stories about the mistresses of Kings have always intrigued me. This story was made even more so because I had just read The King Must Die, which was about Edward's mother and his early years on the throne. Not much is known about Alice Perrers, other than she served as a Lady in Waiting to Queen Phillipa and that she became the King's Mistress. Oh and she was intensely disliked by most people. I think the why's of that dislike are pretty obvious. Edward and Phillipa had a very good marriage as far as royalty is concerned. Yes, they loved each other. That's what makes the way O'Brien brings King and Lady together a little bit hard to take. Anne suggests that Alice became Edward's lover because the Queen wanted her too, because her illness prevented her from enjoying the marriage bed any longer. Hmmm. I'm not sure if that idea works well with me, but somehow Alice, who was obviously low born, made it to the inner circles of the monarchy. Lowborn though she was, she was also, oddly for that time, a very astute businesswomen. This book does a lot to cast a more favorable light on Alice, mostly in the fact that she harbors some love for Edward, but I'm not sure if she deserved the light to be cast on her. Let's face it, she was greedy and power hungry. She managed to accumulate 50 manors during her time as the King's Mistress, and she even managed to get them back after a corruption trial. (She could have lost her life there, but she managed too to talk her way out of it) I think if one thing can be said for Alice Perrers, it is that she was a woman hundreds of years before her time. In truth, I couldn't like Alice as I read this book. I could admire her though, because she rose from the ashes and for a time, ruled a kingdom.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Mac

    Nope. I lack the will to keep trying this bloated, draggy snoozer. The prospect of pushing onward fills me with ambivalence at best, sheer dread at worst; it's just SO BORING, & I don't GAF about anything that's happened (or will ever happen) to these people. Alice keeps banging on about how ugly she is, & how she wants security, & how everyone hates her...blah blah blah. I just DO NOT CARE. Bye-bye. Normally I'd give this a standard 2-star DNF rating, but Alice's continual burbling Nope. I lack the will to keep trying this bloated, draggy snoozer. The prospect of pushing onward fills me with ambivalence at best, sheer dread at worst; it's just SO BORING, & I don't GAF about anything that's happened (or will ever happen) to these people. Alice keeps banging on about how ugly she is, & how she wants security, & how everyone hates her...blah blah blah. I just DO NOT CARE. Bye-bye. Normally I'd give this a standard 2-star DNF rating, but Alice's continual burbling & the author's meandering prose pissed me off enough to round down. Oops. Guess I'm feeling mean today. :D

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cher

    4 stars - It was great. I loved it. I have read little historical fiction set in the 1300s, and nothing that I can recall of King Edward III and his royal mistress, Alice Perrers. Nor had I read anything by this author prior to this book. It was wonderful on all fronts - engaging and with well fleshed out characters. I will be looking for other works by this author. ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: I had shown that their hostility meant nothing to me. I would make no 4 stars - It was great. I loved it. I have read little historical fiction set in the 1300’s, and nothing that I can recall of King Edward III and his royal mistress, Alice Perrers. Nor had I read anything by this author prior to this book. It was wonderful on all fronts - engaging and with well fleshed out characters. I will be looking for other works by this author. ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: I had shown that their hostility meant nothing to me. I would make no excuses, I would not retaliate, I would keep my own counsel. They would see that I had no fear of them. For the first time I learned the true power of self-control. First Sentence: ‘Today you will be my Lady of the Sun,’ King Edward says as he approaches to settle me into my chariot.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle Harbowy

    Little is known about the life of Alice Perrers, but The King's Concubine strives admirably to fill in the gaps and to paint positive intentions and motivations onto a woman whom history has branded as a villain. I'm a sucker for English historical fiction, so on many levels I enjoyed the book. It was an engaging and thorough look at a fascinating time period, and at a fascinating monarch. I thought the love between Edward and Philippa was handled with a perfect touch, and I found the premise Little is known about the life of Alice Perrers, but The King's Concubine strives admirably to fill in the gaps and to paint positive intentions and motivations onto a woman whom history has branded as a villain. I'm a sucker for English historical fiction, so on many levels I enjoyed the book. It was an engaging and thorough look at a fascinating time period, and at a fascinating monarch. I thought the love between Edward and Philippa was handled with a perfect touch, and I found the premise that Philippa arranged for the king to have a mistress completely plausible. The complex relationship was well-written and evocative. However, my enjoyment was marred a little by the choices O'Brien made to justify Alice's actions. While I applaud her for giving Alice agency (as opposed to so many books where the main character is just carried along by fate and makes no choices for herself) Alice made such a series of blatantly bad or dangerous choices that I found it increasingly hard to sympathize with her. If the book is woven around very few known events, then I'm led to infer that the justifications for Alice's choices were O'Brien's addition. Doing what you know is wrong (or, at least, sure to backfire) for the right reasons doesn't make it right. I wanted to see Alice doing what is right for the right reasons sometimes. Once in a while. Or at least, letting the reader hit a few major crossroads without lines like "I would come to regret that." I wanted some time to relate to and approve of her choices BEFORE learning that they would lead to trouble. It would have gone a long way toward making me sympathetic to the character.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kiesha ~ 1Cheekylass

    I must admit, this was a very enjoyable read. I expected not to like to like it. Who would have ever thought I could feel sympathy for let alone like Alice Perrers? Not me certainly but Anne O'Brien did the unthinkable and made a believer out of me. I enjoyed the spin on her character immensely. I also enjoyed William Windsor's character very much. He was a likable gent. I didn't find many dull moments throughout this read. Although I knew what was going to happen with some historical events, I I must admit, this was a very enjoyable read. I expected not to like to like it. Who would have ever thought I could feel sympathy for let alone like Alice Perrers? Not me certainly but Anne O'Brien did the unthinkable and made a believer out of me. I enjoyed the spin on her character immensely. I also enjoyed William Windsor's character very much. He was a likable gent. I didn't find many dull moments throughout this read. Although I knew what was going to happen with some historical events, I was still on the edge of my seat during those moments. Obviously as this is historical fiction so there are some historical inaccuracies as we know it. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the spin. Narration was good---at times I found it hard to distinguish the characters so 4 stars. I would recommend this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Karen Brooks

    In this novel, Anne OBrien undertakes a difficult task resurrecting one of the most notorious women in British royal history King Edward IIIs mistress, Alice Perrers. She not only gives her a voice, but emotional depth, purpose and places her within the context of both the judgemental court and period. The result is, frankly, stunning. Not much is known about Alice Perrers, a woman whose humble origins remain shrouded in mystery and yet who nevertheless rose to become one of the most powerful In this novel, Anne O’Brien undertakes a difficult task – resurrecting one of the most notorious women in British royal history – King Edward III’s mistress, Alice Perrers. She not only gives her a voice, but emotional depth, purpose and places her within the context of both the judgemental court and period. The result is, frankly, stunning. Not much is known about Alice Perrers, a woman whose humble origins remain shrouded in mystery and yet who nevertheless rose to become one of the most powerful and influential women in the court of King Edward III. Freely called avaricious, “ugly”, a “whore” and a variety of other unflattering names, there’s no doubt that Alice used her position as the king’s concubine to her advantage but, as Warner has made clear is this fictitious account of her life, what other options did she have? Literate and clearly an astute business woman, Alice becomes a damsel to Edward’s wife, Queen Philippa, by all accounts, a woman beloved by the people, court and, above all, the king. History tells us that even though the king adored his wife, he took Alice as his mistress. Warner seeks to explain the rationale for this in an original and believable fashion. As Alice’s star rises, she also attracts a great deal of jealousy and resentment. She is a commoner and, worse, she (because, of course, it’s always the woman’s fault) is making a fool of the queen by seducing the king. Aware her status is subject to change with no notice, Alice accumulates property as well as tokens of the king’s affection earning her even more enmity from within the ranks of the nobles – male and female. While the king lives (and, indeed, the queen), she is protected but, as the years pass and, firstly, Philippa dies and the king’s frailty increases and his mortality becomes ever more evident, it’s clear that Alice has to look to her future and that of the four children she bears the king. Without spoiling it for those who don’t know the little history there is, what Alice does to protect herself and her children is dangerous and the consequences should she get caught, dire. Warner joins the existing dots the contemporary chronicles give us, telling the tale from Alice’s point of view. Not always likeable, the reader nonetheless grows to understand this pragmatic, strong woman and you cannot help but admire even her poor choices as Alice herself is the first to chide herself for bad decisions and seeks to own them and set them to rights. I found myself championing this thoroughly maligned woman and so appreciate Warner’s take on her story and the unfair epitaphs this resilient, honest and hard-working woman earned. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but liken her to another strong woman of the time – albeit a fictitious one – Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath – also an astute business woman who uses the means available to her – not only marriage and sex, but within those, her other formidable talents, to create a comfortable existence. It was no surprise then to read in Warner’s very brief notes that some historians (I admit, I haven’t found one yet) believe Chaucer’s portrait of the wife was loosely based on Alice. I like to think the feisty wife was an amalgam of a few women of the time, but there’s no doubt, Alice would have been tempting to immortalise in poetry the way history and then men who recorded it denied her anything but a toxic place. Altogether, this was a fabulous book that allowed a defamed woman, denied her voice and rights in history, a chance to shine – not always in a positive light, but with understanding, compassion, toughness and an awareness of the limitations the times she lived in created. It also points to the fact that though women of the era were largely marginalised and oppressed, there were still those who challenged, overturned and even worked within the patriarchal structures and were thus able to advance, survive and even thrive. I’m thinking specifically here of John of Gaunt’s mistress, Katheryn Swynford – but there are many others just in that period (Margery Kemp, Julian Norwich etc) as well as Alice Perrers - and it’s wonderful to read Herstory as much as it is History.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Raised in an orphanage, Alice expects little from the world but when shes plucked from its confines to become a lady-in-waiting to Philippa of Hainaut, Edward IIIs beloved wife and queen, she has little understanding of what dizzying heights she will climb to, ultimately becoming Edward IIIs mistress and an uncrowned queen, wielding power unthought of for a woman, especially a lowborn woman at that, in 14th century England. But Edward is old and his health failing: what will become of Alice when Raised in an orphanage, Alice expects little from the world but when she’s plucked from its confines to become a lady-in-waiting to Philippa of Hainaut, Edward III’s beloved wife and queen, she has little understanding of what dizzying heights she will climb to, ultimately becoming Edward III’s mistress and an uncrowned queen, wielding power unthought of for a woman, especially a lowborn woman at that, in 14th century England. But Edward is old and his health failing: what will become of Alice when he can no longer protect her? I picked up Anne O’Brien’s The King’s Concubine with some trepidation. This is the fifth novel of hers that I’ve read and my previous responses have been ‘not as bad as I thought it’d be’, ‘average’, ‘I don’t hate it’ and ‘thanks, I hate it SO much’ – I keep reading her work because she keeps writing about fascinating women from Edward III’s reign to Henry VI’s, a time period I’m inordinately fond about, and hardly anyone else does. But I’d hoped this would be better, at least, than the first novel about Alice Perrers I read, Emma Campion’s The King's Mistress, which depicted an Alice sweeter than sugar and with no agency at all, just a poor little victim of vast, outlandish conspiracies that never actually existed and are deeply implausible. If I say O’Brien’s take on Alice Perrers was better, it’s only because she didn’t go for an utterly unhinged, utterly unbelievable conspiracy that explains why Alice had no choice, none whatsoever, in anything that ever happened in her life. If I say O’Brien’s Alice was better constructed, with flaws, I then have to say that she was unlikeable to the point of irritating me greatly and I’m not sure I was actually meant to see Alice as flawed but a #badassqueen and if so, hard pass. So let me begin by saying that I found O’Brien’s Alice insufferable. There seems to be a heavy suggestions that she really is just a victim. She didn’t do anything wrong, she didn’t really seduce Edward III from his beloved and deathly ill wife – Philippa chose her to be Edward’s mistress! Even so, Alice was wracked with guilt over it! Alice was just a pawn! Everyone was so mean to her! Edward loved her so much too! Just like she loved him! She didn’t steal Philippa’s jewels – Edward gave them to her! And he insisted she steal the rings from his dead fingers! And she was just a smart businesswoman, nothing corrupt or evil about her! And John of Gaunt tricked her! And Joan of Kent was out to get her! For Reasons! Look, I’d love a sympathetic take on Alice Perrers, I really would. I think there’s ample room to challenge the historical narratives. But at the same time, I don’t want a version of her that’s completely and utterly whitewashed, I don’t want her declawed and defanged and made into this innocent little victim who’s ganged up on by the rest of the world. And I certainly don’t want this achieved by slinging mud at other historical women, implying that they’re to blame for all of Alice’s trials and traverses. But as much as O’Brien plays this “Alice is a perpetual victim” angle hard, her Alice is just… horrible. She’s greedy, selfish, self-obsessed and grasping, constantly making excuses for her behaviour. She stomps her foot when people tell her she can’t attend the Order of the Garter ceremonies because she’s not a Lady of the Garter. You’re still not a Lady of the Garter, Alice, and you’re not a toddler either. Grow up. She’s positioned as Philippa of Hainault’s “most loyal” lady-in-waiting, to which I snort derisively, and O’Brien tries so darn hard to foster a sense that she was genuinely fond of Philippa – yet her entire interior monologue during Philippa’s death scene is basically “I am uncomfortable when we are not about me”. She’s upset and jealous that Edward III loves Philippa so much and she’s second-place (despite an earlier scene where Edward is all “well I may have jousted in my wife’s name but you were foremost in my heart the entire time!”). Meanwhile, Philippa is actually dying, she literally does not finish the scene alive, and Alice is just “but Edward III doesn’t love me like that! I should be loved best of all! This dying lady is making me feel bad because everyone is paying attention to her when they should be talking about ME”. There’s also a scene where Edward III is dying and Alice refuses to let two different priests be alone with him to take his confession so Edward can’t repent of having sex with her so Edward literally dies unshriven. This is probably not an issue for a modern reader but it would be considered an unforgiveable sin in Alice’s time. Like it or not, Catholicism was hugely important for medieval royals and the idea of dying unshriven was utterly repugnant and horrifying, to the point where, if a baby was expected not to survive the birth, midwives were allowed to baptise the child still in the womb because they believed that an unbaptised baby would go to hell. To put Alice’s actions in her own historical context and not with the gloss of “historical romance but superficially feminist” narrative O’Brien is trying to write, Alice is behaving like a woman who does not give jot about whether the man she loves dies unshriven and goes to hell because he might confess to having sex out of wedlock with her, something he absolutely did do. WTF? And while I hoped there’d be an eleventh hour call-out where some friend or mentor-figure is like, “Alice you’re selfish and greedy and behave like a spoilt toddler” when this has happened in nearly every other O’Brien novel I’ve read – I was left frustrated. I was left wishing I could steal Philippa of Hainault’s jewels back from Alice myself because she’s just so irritating. It also seems that O’Brien wanted her to be the Plucky/Badass Historical Heroine and have her “slay” her enemies with a perfect jibe or gesture but all it did was drag me out of the setting to cringe at Alice’s weak put-downs. In such moments, Alice is not a medieval woman but a two-dimensional Strong Female Character™ shoved into a vaguely medieval setting and it is blaringly obvious. (Also opening the novel with a scene where tiny convent-raised Alice has no frigging clue who Mary, Mother of God is was certainly… a Choice. I was raised Catholic from birth and the idea of not knowing, at any age, who the pretty lady carrying baby Jesus was is pretty damn absurd and I wasn’t raised in a convent by nuns! And the fact that Alice is old enough to retain a memory of it (since the novel’s told in her first person POV, past tense) makes it even more bewildering.) Alice’s world is so insular. The royal court during the last years of Edward III’s life was a fascinating time and place, with so many interesting personalities: Chaucer, Katherine Swynford, Joan of Kent, John of Gaunt, the Black Prince, Blanche of Lancaster, Froissart... But we barely see any of that. There’s only a handful of notable characters outside of Alice – Edward III as the dashing romantic hero turned vulnerable old man, Philippa of Hainault as the approving wife, their daughter Isabella as the bitch who puts Alice in her place until Joan of Kent can return to be the true villainess of Alice’s story and the sexily ambitious William de Windsor, Alice’s husband. None of Edward III’s sons do anything of significance (though we bewilderingly get Lionel, Duke of Clarence characterised as an arsehole for one brief scene – yeah, I don’t know why he’s an arsehole there either but if you want an arsehole son, Thomas of Woodstock and John of Gaunt are right there and famously dickish), there’s no Chaucer, no Katherine Swynford, no debates about the succession. And even when O’Brien references Alice doing things outside of boning Edward III and collecting jewels, like fighting for her properties or giving birth, she never actually shows us Alice doing these things but just refers to them for a couple of sentences. There’s even a repeated flashback of Alice parading around as the Lady of the Sun and thinking she deserves this pre-eminence but we don’t even get to see the original scene! The fact we see it in flashback twice suggests that the first time was something incredibly special and meaningful to Alice. But do we see it? NO. I think my biggest issue with this is the way that it treats the women around Alice. To avoid feeling like Alice is a horrible hussy, stealing a dying woman’s husband, O’Brien presents Philippa picking Alice out and raising her to the status of lady-of-waiting with the intention of Alice becoming Edward’s mistress. So it’s all okay, Philippa approves, it’s not really cheating. It even makes sense, to some degree, that Philippa would approve – she is very sick and dying, sex is probably out of the question for her. But she insists on complete and utter secrecy which means Philippa is really making Alice her pawn and Alice has no choice but to sleep with Edward (even though their relationship is completely and utterly a love match and he never forces her) and Philippa is to blame when the secrecy leaves Alice exposed to the slings and arrows of public opinion. Now, it’s plausible that Philippa, sick and dying, might have approved of Edward taking a mistress or having a sexual relationship with Alice but I don’t find it plausible that Philippa picks Alice out just to be Edward’s mistress. I don’t find it plausible that her approval must remain secret from everyone but especially Edward. Because Philippa and Edward were a famously close and loving marriage – it’s way more likely she’d confide in him before anyone else. And, also, because Philippa’s approval is secret, it doesn’t remove the stink from Edward’s actions. If he doesn’t know she approves, he’s choosing to cheat on his beloved, sickly wife. Seriously. I mean, it’s great Alice has the seal of approval from Philippa so she’s not the homewrecking whore but if Edward doesn’t know his wife approves, he’s still a cheating scumbag and not a dashing romantic hero, y’know? And there’s no reason for Philippa not to let him know she approves. They had a famously strong, loving relationship. She would trust him far more than Alice, some random person she’s just met and decided is wonderful because she picked up Philippa’s dropped beads. Plus, while O’Brien never once addresses this, this set-up suggests that Philippa is grooming the young, vulnerable Alice to become her husband’s mistress. A) that’s disgusting, B) it’s all done in the name of denying Alice any responsibility for sleeping with a married man, and C) Philippa of Hainault has done NOTHING to deserve this. The basic narrative of Alice Perrers’ life presents Philippa as her victim. She is the loyal, steadfast, devoted, seriously ill wife who is dying when Alice hooks up with Edward and is paraded as his mistress in front of everyone. So I’m not really comfortable with O’Brien’s narrative actually making Philippa the real reason for all the public condemnation Alice’s receives and a woman who groomed a vulnerable young woman to become her husband’s mistress. And then there’s poor Joan of Kent. I was honestly surprised at this because O’Brien’s novel about Joan was quite sympathetic. Here, though – she’s just vain and selfish and out to get poor little Alice. There is absolutely no historical basis for this – I doubt Alice and Joan were friendly but there is not one shred of evidence that Joan thought anything at all about Alice. I also found it quite disturbing that Alice was so focused on Joan’s looks and sexual behaviour, derisively calling her Joan the Fat (in addition to this just being gross, there’s some thought that, like Philippa, Joan suffered from dropsy so yay, mocking a woman for a medical condition! What a badass queen Alice is and not at all a horrible person.) and Joan the Whore. Wait. Seriously. Wait. Alice “infamous whore” Perrers is slut-shaming Joan of Kent? I’m actually speechless. People in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones and the pot is calling the kettle black and let’s not slut-shame women. Actually, forget that, let’s talk about why Joan was labelled a slut. She, aged around 12, married a man twice her age, the marriage was consummated – and then was forced by her family to marry another man and, without consummating this second marriage, went through the scandal of having her case examined by the Pope and her second marriage annulled. Don’t call her a slut, you dipshit, call Child Protective Services. Seriously, anyone that thinks Joan of Kent was a slut because of what happened when she was twelve needs their heads checked because WHAT. Outside of these issues, the novel just dragged and it was a struggle to pick this up, knowing I’d be stuck with Alice and the stupid, ill-conceived storytelling decisions made to make Alice an eternal victim. I don’t know if this is any better than Campion’s The King’s Mistress but if it is, it’s only by a millimetre. After both of those, I’m ready to give up on my dream of a rehabilitated but not endlessly victimised Alice. Honestly, I understand why Alice was so hated because damn she’s insufferable even when she’s “good”.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jaffareadstoo

    My thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin UK (Mira) for an early digital edition to read and review. The Kings Concubine is set during the reign of Edward III, and describes his relationship with his wife, Philippa of Hainault, and his mistress, Alice Perrers. Little is truly known about the life of Alice Perrers, and yet Anne OBrien has woven a skilful and believable story about how, in the mid 1360s, young Alice became one of the Queens waiting women. The way in which Alice colluded with Queen My thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin UK (Mira) for an early digital edition to read and review. The King’s Concubine is set during the reign of Edward III, and describes his relationship with his wife, Philippa of Hainault, and his mistress, Alice Perrers. Little is truly known about the life of Alice Perrers, and yet Anne O’Brien has woven a skilful and believable story about how, in the mid 1360’s, young Alice became one of the Queen’s waiting women. The way in which Alice colluded with Queen Philippa in order to begin a sexual relationship with the King, is described in a compassionate and romantic manner. The story quickly evolves into a sympathetic and warm account of an aging king and his love affair, not just with his astute young mistress, but also with his wife, and courtiers. The medieval court is beautifully described and is perfectly placed within the context of the story. There is much debate about Alice Perrers, and the influence she had on the aging King, she is often depicted as an avaricious, scheming harpy, or as a femme fatale, but in The King’s Concubine, Anne O’Brien has given a lighter and possibly more sympathetic view of this charismatic medieval mistress. I enjoyed this version of Alice’s early life, and would definitely recommend this book to my friends who enjoy historical fiction by Philippa Gregory, Vanora Bennett and Emma Campion

  15. 4 out of 5

    Blodeuedd Finland

    I do not really know what happened, it could have been growing all week. I was all come on, 600 pages? Why is that needed? Cos honestly nothing happened in the book. I started to read, it felt ok, but then I started to skim and skimmed to the end. I could have worked through it and given it a good rating but it was a library book which means...I gave up and skimmed. I have too many books. I need awesome, if the library do not give me awesome I go all eh. I am also not a fan of the this is me, the I do not really know what happened, it could have been growing all week. I was all come on, 600 pages? Why is that needed? Cos honestly nothing happened in the book. I started to read, it felt ok, but then I started to skim and skimmed to the end. I could have worked through it and given it a good rating but it was a library book which means...I gave up and skimmed. I have too many books. I need awesome, if the library do not give me awesome I go all eh. I am also not a fan of the this is me, the narrator, I am old now and telling my story. I want to live in the moment. I do not want the narrator as a old woman there with me at the same time looking back. The book deserved more, I could just not deliver this time.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    I found Alice Perrers (or Alice de Windsor, as we should really call her), to be an uninspiring heroine. She was greedy and self-serving. Maybe she wasn't really like that but Ms. O'Brien would have you believe she was. She was constantly stealing (calling a spade a spade) and justifying her actions on every other page. Enough already. I get it. She wants money. She wants land. Life for a medieval woman of no rank was rough. She had to look out for herself and her children, I get it. I didn't I found Alice Perrers (or Alice de Windsor, as we should really call her), to be an uninspiring heroine. She was greedy and self-serving. Maybe she wasn't really like that but Ms. O'Brien would have you believe she was. She was constantly stealing (calling a spade a spade) and justifying her actions on every other page. Enough already. I get it. She wants money. She wants land. Life for a medieval woman of no rank was rough. She had to look out for herself and her children, I get it. I didn't feel sorry for this woman at all.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maria Ruiz

    This book captures very well the famous saying "Women in power make men uncomfortable". I knew little of Alice Perrers before this book and that's because history has had the bad habit of overlooking women in history. I have enjoyed Alice's thoughts, strategies, the ability to stand up for herself and of course her growth to understand that she is a woman with her own heart. William de Windsor... what can I say? One wolf can recognise another with a quick glance and smile. This is why I enjoy This book captures very well the famous saying "Women in power make men uncomfortable". I knew little of Alice Perrers before this book and that's because history has had the bad habit of overlooking women in history. I have enjoyed Alice's thoughts, strategies, the ability to stand up for herself and of course her growth to understand that she is a woman with her own heart. William de Windsor... what can I say? One wolf can recognise another with a quick glance and smile. This is why I enjoy O'Brien books so much: she gives these women the voice that history has interestedly silenced. Yet some may ask: isn't she greedy? isn't she too much ambitious? isn't she cold and calculated? She might have been. Evil or not, what Anne O'Brien captures is human nature and even though this is historical fiction, the chessboard that the Court was isn't a surprise to anyone. Would definitely recommend it and I can't wait to get my hands on the next one!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    I went into reading this book thinking I had read it before (but it was actually another historical fiction novel also based on Alice Perrers by a different author and truthfully I preferred that one more). In the beginning, I felt like I was being beaten by the exposition stick - there was just so much info dump and I believe that there are better ways to set the scene rather than explaining it all so bluntly. It was not the kind of novel I was expecting, but once I got over that, an I went into reading this book thinking I had read it before (but it was actually another historical fiction novel also based on Alice Perrers by a different author and truthfully I preferred that one more). In the beginning, I felt like I was being beaten by the exposition stick - there was just so much info dump and I believe that there are better ways to set the scene rather than explaining it all so bluntly. It was not the kind of novel I was expecting, but once I got over that, an interesting story developed and the second half was definitely more pronounced and nuanced. At times, dialogue was a bit clunky, which surprised me with this author. It was a good book, but it could have been so much better. For the lost potential, I give it 3.5 stars.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I picked up this book at a book sale in my local library. This is the story of Alice Perrers, the mistress of King Edward III. Until I read this book, I hadn't heard of her, but she was a fascinating woman. Starting with nothing, she rose to be the most powerful woman in England at the time. I sat reading this book with my iPad next to me so I could read more about her life. It was an interesting story.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    Re-read for the 3rd or 4th time, Alice is such a strong character and one of my favorites!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kara-karina

    As a novel, the story of a rise of Alice Perrers might seem a bit dry, but as a historical account of a magnificent woman who achieved so much way ahead of her time? It's glorious! I loved Alice Perrers because no matter what she faced she kept her integrity. I'm actually really fascinated with that time period and Plantagenets are my favorite royal branch of British monarchy. The narration is led by Alice Perrers largely from her memories. She talks about her common upbringing in the Abbey on As a novel, the story of a rise of Alice Perrers might seem a bit dry, but as a historical account of a magnificent woman who achieved so much way ahead of her time? It's glorious! I loved Alice Perrers because no matter what she faced she kept her integrity. I'm actually really fascinated with that time period and Plantagenets are my favorite royal branch of British monarchy. The narration is led by Alice Perrers largely from her memories. She talks about her common upbringing in the Abbey on the outskirts of London and a strange series of events that made her rise up so unexpectedly high. What surprised me most was that Alice is not pretty, she is considered ugly but her features are just striking. Because she is convinced that her appearance is worthless she relies on her sharp wit, business instinct and for the most of her life avoids mirrors. Her forthrightness and charm is what attracts the men in her life. Edward III is portrayed in the sunset of his reign, but he is still blinding Alice with his golden glow and when she meets him she is truly admiring him and slowly falls in love despite the huge age difference between them (she is 17 and he is 50+). Edward is such an interesting monarch! His marriage to Philippa when they both were just kids became a love match and they raised 12 children together, however Philippa is dying from a grave illness (I'm guessing it might be a severe rheumatoid arthritis because she is in a lot of pain most of the time and the slightest touch feels like torture) so when she meets Alice she decides to push her in Edward's path so she would become his mistress in her own stead. Two women make a sort of a silent pact. Alice's respect and admiration for Philippa is running deep, but she has to keep silence and be despised by the court for capturing King's heart and betraying the Queen. There are so many yummy bits in this novel I'm at loss as to what to talk about. Alice herself is one of these rare women who manage to create incredible path for themselves. When she is married for the first time, she makes a decision to buy her first property with her husband's secretary help. By the time she's been King's mistress for 10 years she is an owner of 56 properties around London. 56! Do you know how incredibly rare this is for a woman of common upbringing or any upbringing in those days? I was in awe of her. She stays loyal to the King especially when his health falters and he starts to deteriorate physically and mentally. She tries to protect him no matter what. Her second husband reminded me of Rhett Butler. William de Windsor is an ambitious, cold-hearted son of a bitch but at the same time over the years between cutting remarks and ugly truths which pepper his verbal exchanges with Alice they develop genuine affection for each other which get them through the hardships of King's final days and his death. The King's Concubine is a very interesting novel, full of charismatic intense characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christie

    "Today you will be my Lady of the Sun," King Edward says as he approaches to settle me into my chariot. Alice Perrers begins life as an orphan living in a convent and destined to be a nun. Her ambition is to be someone powerful and independent. Catching the eye of Queen Philippa, she finds herself caught up in the world of court politics and intrigue. When the King begins expressing an interest in Alice as well, will Alice betray the queen who brought her to court for her own ambition? Have I "Today you will be my Lady of the Sun," King Edward says as he approaches to settle me into my chariot. Alice Perrers begins life as an orphan living in a convent and destined to be a nun. Her ambition is to be someone powerful and independent. Catching the eye of Queen Philippa, she finds herself caught up in the world of court politics and intrigue. When the King begins expressing an interest in Alice as well, will Alice betray the queen who brought her to court for her own ambition? Have I ever said how much I hate it when the sneak peek of things to come in a book's prologue, never actually happens in the book? This story starts with a prologue that grabs your attention, but never revisits it again in the story which was frustrating. The book overall is good. The beginning is a bit slow, but it picks up quite a bit when Alice gets to court. Alice's beginnings are quite different than Emma Campion's take in The King's Mistress, and as such I enjoyed it much more. This Alice takes charge of her destiny instead of complaining about how she had no choice. I found Anne O'Brien's Alice to be much more sympathetic and a compelling character to read about. I also like how this book goes quite a bit more into depth about Alice's life after Edward. If you like royal history, I definitely recommend this book. Also if you read The King's Mistress and are looking for a bit of a different take on Alice Perrers, I would highly recommend giving this one a shot.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Earthchild

    Alice Perrers was mistress to Edward III. I'd heard of her but that's it. She was an innocent with no friends who had to learn to survive in a politicized world where one wrong move could mean your downfall, and could literally mean death when she was accused of witchcraft. I enjoy learning about new people and always find it intriguing to read about a person from different points-of-view. Alice was a minor character in a book I just finished reading about Katherine Swynford. In it, she was Alice Perrers was mistress to Edward III. I'd heard of her but that's it. She was an innocent with no friends who had to learn to survive in a politicized world where one wrong move could mean your downfall, and could literally mean death when she was accused of witchcraft. I enjoy learning about new people and always find it intriguing to read about a person from different points-of-view. Alice was a minor character in a book I just finished reading about Katherine Swynford. In it, she was portrayed the way that others saw her, the way that history remembers her; however, in her own story, we see the events in her life--the hopes, the motivations--that made her into the woman she became. Other characters also had different POVs, for example, John of Gaunt was featured heavily in both books but reading both stories and not knowing, one would think the authors were speaking of two separate men.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is the first historical I have read about King Edward III and Queen Phillipa of Hainault and its really good. Most of what I read is usually set in the Tudor age or during the Wars of the Roses. The King's Concubine was refreshing, and from the first page it immersed me in the medieval era. Alice at first was naive, but then as I followed her story, and her ups and downs at court, you realise how two faced life was then. One minute she was the favourite and a very powerful woman. The next This is the first historical I have read about King Edward III and Queen Phillipa of Hainault and its really good. Most of what I read is usually set in the Tudor age or during the Wars of the Roses. The King's Concubine was refreshing, and from the first page it immersed me in the medieval era. Alice at first was naive, but then as I followed her story, and her ups and downs at court, you realise how two faced life was then. One minute she was the favourite and a very powerful woman. The next banished and cast away. This book serves as a great background to the upcoming troubles that follow ie...the Wars of the Roses. Descendents of Edward III and their claim for the throne. Richly and lavishly described, the book kept me captivated throughout. Thank you Anne a beautiful book!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    A great story of Alice Perrers, showing her to be a strong and determined medieval woman. She had a mind for business and was able to invest in property so that on the death of Edward III she was decidedly land-rich. However with the loss of her royal lover she was left vulnerable to the rest of the court and to Parliament. This novel really showed me just how difficult it was to have been a 'woman of means' at that time; women were ultimately dependant on men for their livelihood. Luckily Alice A great story of Alice Perrers, showing her to be a strong and determined medieval woman. She had a mind for business and was able to invest in property so that on the death of Edward III she was decidedly land-rich. However with the loss of her royal lover she was left vulnerable to the rest of the court and to Parliament. This novel really showed me just how difficult it was to have been a 'woman of means' at that time; women were ultimately dependant on men for their livelihood. Luckily Alice had married a man who was willing to fight for her rights, and thus leave her with some form of independance. I really enjoyed this novel, and the only reason I gave it four stars instead of five was because it did begin to drag a little towards the end. This was a shame really, as the rest of it was very well-written.

  26. 5 out of 5

    N. Sasson

    This has become one of my top ten historical reads of all time. Anne O'Brien has created a heroine who is wholly unique, unusually strong and an equal match for any man. Alice Perrers (who has not been treated kindly by history) is neither beautiful nor well born, but she dreams of a grander life than taking a nun's habit and eventually finds herself in the court of Edward III and Philippa. The author manages to make the reasons for her being there and becoming Edward's paramour very believable. This has become one of my top ten historical reads of all time. Anne O'Brien has created a heroine who is wholly unique, unusually strong and an equal match for any man. Alice Perrers (who has not been treated kindly by history) is neither beautiful nor well born, but she dreams of a grander life than taking a nun's habit and eventually finds herself in the court of Edward III and Philippa. The author manages to make the reasons for her being there and becoming Edward's paramour very believable. Even though it's easy to see why others may not have looked kindly on her because of her business mind and influence over Edward, Alice becomes a likeable and relatable character. I devoured this and stayed up late into the night to finish it. Highly recommended!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Johnston

    Not a bad novel overall. Well written and a good knowledge of the period. However, I could not get into liking the main character at all. Alice Perrers is a woman with very little redeeming qualities. The writer seems to want us to like her as an anti heroine but I just didn't like or care about her all that much. She almost tries to make her into the Anne Boleyn of Phillippa Gregory's novels and I didn't like her much either! Half the problem may have been that the majority of the female Not a bad novel overall. Well written and a good knowledge of the period. However, I could not get into liking the main character at all. Alice Perrers is a woman with very little redeeming qualities. The writer seems to want us to like her as an anti heroine but I just didn't like or care about her all that much. She almost tries to make her into the Anne Boleyn of Phillippa Gregory's novels and I didn't like her much either! Half the problem may have been that the majority of the female characters were rather nasty! We lose the only arguably nice female character half way through the book and no others remain to balance out the nastiness of the main character. For the fact that I really disliked the main character by the end of the novel I have to give this book 4 stars.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carol Palmer

    I started this book with more than a little trepidation. Other books I've read from this time period both fiction and non-fiction did not paint a flattering picture of Alice Perrers. Anne O'Brien has painted a wonderful and engaging portrait of a woman who started with nothing and at one point was a very wealthy woman. She knew her royal patronage would not last forever and planned accordingly. I liked that she was shrewd and conniving but was also very loyal to Edward III. I also think that I started this book with more than a little trepidation. Other books I've read from this time period both fiction and non-fiction did not paint a flattering picture of Alice Perrers. Anne O'Brien has painted a wonderful and engaging portrait of a woman who started with nothing and at one point was a very wealthy woman. She knew her royal patronage would not last forever and planned accordingly. I liked that she was shrewd and conniving but was also very loyal to Edward III. I also think that telling the story in first person narrative was a wise choice so that the reader had more of an idea of where her motivations came from. This book was a wonderful read and I highly recommend it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Miss Melly

    I thoroughly enjoyed this account of Alice Perrers, notorious mistress of Edward III. I had always suspected that Alice got the rough end of history's stick and that she could not possibly have been as evil as she was portrayed to be. In this novel she emerges as a strong and compassionate woman who had a high regard for both Edward and Phillipa. Yes, she was an opportunist and yes, she took whatever gifts and baubles came her way - but what savvy woman wouldn't try to secure a future for I thoroughly enjoyed this account of Alice Perrers, notorious mistress of Edward III. I had always suspected that Alice got the rough end of history's stick and that she could not possibly have been as evil as she was portrayed to be. In this novel she emerges as a strong and compassionate woman who had a high regard for both Edward and Phillipa. Yes, she was an opportunist and yes, she took whatever gifts and baubles came her way - but what savvy woman wouldn't try to secure a future for herself and her children? This was a great read and I became quite fond of this version of Alice.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aurora

    I am a big fan of Phillippa Gregory and wanted to try other authors with similar plots. I was pleasantly surprised. This book wasn't dumbed down and it was a well-researched and fascinating book on a woman that isn't commonly written about. I enjoyed not being in the Tudor area and instead seeing how the royal family was before being decided into the Lancasters and Yorks.

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