Royal Mistress is based on a real historical figure, Jane Shore, who was King Edward IV’s “merriest mistress” until his death and whose beauty and wit also charmed his chambelain, Will Hastings and the irresponsible and profligate rebel Thomas Gray, but not Edward;s successor, Richard.
Taking the facts history records about Jane and the incredible ups and downs of her life and those of the powerful men she loved, Anne Easter Smith has created an engrossing tale of a woman who did not fit into her time but made her own way anyway.
Jane was the daughter of a successful silk merchant who, at 22, was married to an older, humorless and, as it turned out, impotent man. Being smarter and better educated than mot women of her time, she was not willing to accept her fate and live an unfulfilled and boring life so she took the courageous course of seeking an annulment. In the meantime, she caught the eye of King Edward and soon she became the King’s mistress, living a life of luxury and ultimately love for the last years of the king’s unexpectedly short life.
During that time, Jane earned the respect of many people as she used her influence to try to help others and did not put on airs. She would need that respect and friendship when everything began to unravel, as it often does for those close to kings.
Shore is an extremely likeable character, and the reader will feel for her in good times and bad and pull for her the whole way through the book. Smith does an excellent job of catching the spirit of the turbulent times immediately following Edward’s death and the early days of the reign of King Richard.
This is a rich and detailed novel that immerses the reader in the experience, by a writer who is meticulous in her research. For lovers of historical novels, this book will provide romance, intrigue and mystery, and leave the reader satisfied, although this reviewer felt that the epilogue was a bit anticlimactic and unnecessary. Nevertheless, this book is highly recommended and will explain why Jane Shore has fascinated poets and authors from the time she appeared in the public eye until the present, over 1500 years later.