This period of history is full of rebellion, lies, betrayals and good old-fashioned skullduggery, to which Jacquetta bears witness as the BFF of Henry VI’s increasingly war-hungry wife, Margaret of Anjou. Jacquetta trails Margaret up and down England as the two factions – York and Lancaster – square off, primarily at Margaret’s instigation. Margaret is driven by love of the Beauforts and especially Edmund Beaufort — and schemes right down to foisting her lover’s child on Henry VI as his heir, or so the book implies. I’m not sure why it merely implies, but there you have it.
I did not fully buy into the friendship between the two women. Jacquetta was loyal, but I did not feel she held real affection for Margaret until Jacquetta said so at the end of the novel. Margaret, on the other hand, definitely thought she had a friend.
In fact, I understood Margaret of Anjou much better than I did Jacquetta.
Margaret’s character arc is much more pronounced – you see her transition from a simple bride to a hard-headed, unyielding ruler who in refusing to include the Yorkist faction in governing the realm, loses it altogether and plunges England into wars lasting two generations. Margaret was fierce, decisive, and honest in her loves and hates. Jacquetta was a woman in love and standing by her family in the beginning of the novel and in the end – she did not evolve much.
I've read nearly everything Philippa Gregory has written— and have 10 of her novels on my bookshelf as I write. I did not care for the Wideacre Trilogy recurring incest theme. I loved the Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen’s Fool, The Boleyn Inheritance and The Constant Princess, yet have been so-so about everything since The Other Queen.
As I think about why, it is likely because the Tudor novels were a fresh take on well-known historical figures — interesting perspectives, plausible plot lines, even if historically inaccurate. The “Cousins War” series goes into less charted territory, but is more straightforward with it. I like my Gregory novels with as bit more of the unexpected, which I hope I’ll see when I buy the 11th one.
Philippa I have not given up on you!