This is the story of Alice Perrers, a 14th century merchant’s daughter who rises above her class to become King Edward III’s mistress. The author does a brilliant job of depicting politics and life at court. The clothes, food and food habits, room decorations, fabrics, colours, modes of travel – all of the things that make up lifestyle – are depicted in vivid detail during the course of the story. The merchant class is described as well, including their efforts to find favour with the upper classes. I found the descriptions of daily life and court intrigue fascinating and this is what mostly held my interest throughout this rather large book.
The parts of this book I didn’t care for as much were the characters. And given that I think the author did a great job describing the court’s machinations, I’m left with the impression that there weren’t many people in the king’s household which a reader could sympathize with. Even the main character, Alice Perrers, left me a bit cold. I think she was written as a sympathetic protagonist but she appeared less of a heroine than someone who complained (too often in my opinion) that she ended up where she did because she had no say in the matter. Perhaps this was so, but the repeated sentiment made the character seem self-pitying. In spite of that, however, for anyone who loves historical novels, I’d say The King’s Mistress is worth the read.