First sentence: IN the tender green time of April, Katherine set forth at last upon her journey with the two nuns and the royal messenger.
Premise/plot: Katherine de Roet is a young girl on the way to the royal court when Anya Seton's historical novel opens. To be fair, she isn't so much on the way to the royal court to become a part of the royal court as it just so happens that her sister, Philippa, serves the Queen. If all goes well, a marriage will be arranged for young Katherine. She is young and beautiful, but, does not have a dowry. She catches the eye of many, but it is Hugh Swynford who steps up and says, yes, I want to actually marry her (and not just bed her). Katherine is not thrilled. Her heart is just not in marrying this OLD man--no matter his social status. (Not that she's in love with anyone in particular.) Plus these two didn't get off to a mutual good start. He likes what he sees a LITTLE too much, and after a struggle in the garden one day, she's saved from rape by a member of the royal family--John of Gaunt. The Duke takes the poor woman home to his wife, Blanche, who takes pity on the girl and offers her friendship and kindness. But a marriage between the two (Hugh and Katherine) is arranged, and off they go to his (pitiful) estate.
Katherine and the Duke (John of Gaunt) keep crossing paths--not often or frequent, but occasionally. When they do cross paths, they live a lingering impression on one another. Like when the Duke just happens to be passing by her estate when she's gone into labor with her first child and NO ONE on the estate is around to hear her cries and screams. But what really leaves an impression perhaps is her devoted care to his dying wife.
The novel spans decades and covers a LOT of history. (1360s through the 1390s) Politics. Royal family. Religious history. Conflicts domestic and abroad. This one isn't exclusively a "romance" between Katherine and the Duke. But it does concern their decades long love affair. (She has four children with him, none legitimate until much, much, much later).
My thoughts: I first read this one in September 2011. I enjoyed it then. I enjoyed it now. My biggest advice would be don't go into it thinking that it is a swoon-worthy, super-romantic LOVE STORY that will leave you smiling. The characters are human, and, that's not a "bad" thing. Just that it isn't a superficial romance novel with characters that are too-good-to-be-true and a fairy tale ending.
It probably could go without saying that this is a historical novel based on history; especially the royal family and important figures of the time. Seton's novel is peopled with real people. I am curious how much is fictionalized and how much is "true." But certainly it has to blend in some fiction.
And now just for fun some additional covers:
|1954 cover of Katherine|
|1975, 1981, 1983 cover|
© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews