When had I choice to be other than I was? From childhood Alice Salisbury has learnt obedience in all things and at fourteen, dutifully marries the man her father has chosen for her - at the cost of losing the love of her mother forever and the family she holds dear.
But merchant Janyn Perrers is a good and loving husband and Alice soon learns to enjoy her marriage. Until a messenger brings news of his disappearance and she discovers that her husband had many secrets, secrets he didn't want her to know - but which have now put a price on her own head and that of her beloved daughter. Brought under the protection of King Edward III and Queen Philippa, she must dutifully embrace her fate once more - as a virtual prisoner at Court.
And when the king singles her out for more than just royal patronage, she knows she has little choice but to accept his advances. But obeying the king brings with it many burdens as well as pleasures, as she forfeits her good name to keep her daughter free from hurt.
Still a young woman and guided by her intellect and good business sense, she learns to use her gifts as wisely as she can. But as one of the king's favourites, she brings jealousy and hatred in her wake and some will stop at nothing to see her fall from grace.
When had I choice to be other than I was? This truly says it all for Alice in this book. I cannot think of a more stressful environment, save a war zone, than life at court as a companion to kings and queens. Alice's life was never her own, even her children were rarely hers to care for and make decisions about. From the moment she married Janyn, she was thrown into a whirlwind of intrigue that she had to navigate while not knowing the particulars. So much was expected of her, and on top of that, to accept it all with uncomplaining grace.
This story takes place in the time of House Plantagenet, in the late 1300's when Edward III was king. Interesting to me was the relationship Alice had with both Queen Philippa and Edward, it was not your usual young mistress takes the place of the queen in the king's affections. It was all very calculated it would seem, and truly what choice did she have? At that time, you did not refuse the royal family, even though she would suffer feelings of guilt that she could have somehow behaved differently.
While many of the events are poetic license by the author, personally stated, I really enjoyed reading about the life and personality she crafted for Alice, sad for her trials and happy for the joys she experienced. I'll admit, I cried for her at a certain point towards the end, but I don't want to spoil anything for any prospective readers. I am definitely interested in reading more about Alice, and Wikipedia gives information and also other novels which feature her as a character. A definite recommend from me to historical fiction fans, I gave it a 5/5.
I read this for the 2016 Reading Assignment Challenge.