All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Mistress To The Crown – Isolde Martyn

on February 6, 2013

Mistress To The CrownMistress To The Crown
Isolde Martyn
Harlequin MIRA
2013, 405p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher/Morey Media

For 12 years, Elizabeth has been looking for a way to escape her unhappy marriage. Long ago she tried to partition for an annulment or divorce but learned that she would not have the means to acquire either. When Lord William Hastings comes into her husband’s store, Elizabeth sees opportunity of two different types. Not only does her attraction to him give her the opportunity to explore what she has long been denied, but he also has the means and power that could see her free of her impotent husband.

One thing Elizabeth did not predict was that her association with Lord Hastings would lead to the King of England himself desiring her in his bed. Although reluctant at first, to leave Hastings and give herself to the King, it is Hastings who manages to show her what placing herself in such an alliance could bring her. She would have her freedom and she would have the ear of the King. She could do what she has long wanted to do and help people that need it. Elizabeth makes the decision to go to the King and he calls her Jane, presumably to distinguish her from his wife Elizabeth Woodville, the Queen. When she confesses her indiscretion to her husband prematurely, she is forced to leave his household and finds that her friends shun her and members of her family can no longer even look at her. She has also earned the enmity of the Queen and several of her relations, including the Queen’s eldest son by her first marriage who has made it all too clear that he thinks Elizabeth needs taking down a peg or two and that he is just the man to do it.

But despite that, she has her protectors. She long enjoys the King’s favour and company and her position allows her to help those who have been denied justice. As long as “Ned”, the King and Lord Hastings remain close to her and look out for her, she will be safe from all who would see her cast out, or wish her harm. But as the King begins to fall ill, Elizabeth’s position becomes tenuous. There are nefarious plans at foot for who will take the Crown and no one is safe from those who wish to seize it. As different factions war for power, Elizabeth’s loyalty could see her being burned at the stake.

Mistress To The Crown tells an exciting story focusing around King Edward IV’s reign and one of his many mistresses. Elizabeth was married off very young to an older man and the marriage proved to be less than satisfactory. Not long after they wed, her husband became impotent and Elizabeth was desperate for a way to be free. It was an arranged marriage, one that her father had sought to make for her to protect her when he thought he might lose everything and it was never going to make Elizabeth happy. Beautiful and clever, she found avenues to escape her marriage closed to her, until the arrival of one Lord William Hastings, and the attraction between them that changed her life and set her on a new and entirely different course.

I’ve read a few novels set in this particular time frame before – King Edward IV is of course the father of the Princes in the Tower and after his death, his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was ruled invalid due to prior matrimony and his heirs declared bastards. His brother Richard seized the throne and locked the two princes in the Tower of London where they were never seen or heard from again. This is a rather popular time period for historical fiction, and that which follows it, the time of the Tudors and it is slightly strange to read novels set around the same events, but from the viewpoints of different people. Most of what I’ve read before is from the viewpoint of Elizabeth Woodville (and also Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor) so this book gives a more human appearance to King Edward, known as “Ned” to those closest to him. Despite the fact that Ned is indulgent with Elizabeth, seeking her counsel and discourse and admiring her, he often reverts to “Kingly” behaviour if he feels that she’s out of line. Despite knowing this, Elizabeth does often approach him even when she knows what she has to request may anger him. Theirs seems to be a relationship that worked well and enjoyed longevity. And although Ned did his best to provide for her, the fracas that came after his death meant that Elizabeth faced not only having her home taken from her, but also imprisonment, trial, shaming and possibly being burned at the stake or hanged.

Although I enjoyed reading Elizabeth’s story, I didn’t particularly find her a very warm or sympathetic character. I didn’t relate to her, nor did I really see that she struggled with her choices. She knew that by going to the King, whether she wanted to or not, it would grant her some influence and she could use that to be free of her husband. Even though, to be quite honest, by going to the King she wouldn’t have really had to have anything to do with her husband anyway. As with stories of mistresses (and often, with Queens as well) I fail to see what they see in these men sometimes. Is it a rule that all Kings behave like a manchild, with a need to be petted, cosseted, micromanaged and indulged? I suppose so, given that they are groomed from birth to get what they want but it’s often hard to imagine a man invading another country when he needs his mistress to soothe his ruffled feathers! I didn’t particularly like Ned all that much, he seemed to be portrayed without much depth. I think I preferred the character of Lord Hastings and I particularly liked the lawyer in the late part of the book who seeks to ascertain whether or not Elizabeth is guilty of treason a second time (after being acquitted the first time). I think I’d have liked more time spent on those interactions, but given this story is mostly the one of Elizabeth’s relationship with the King, I understand why it wasn’t.

Mistress To The Crown is a well written story, rich with historical detail and ripe with scandal and passion. It’s reignited my interest in this period now and I’m going to see if I can find a few books that might pick up around the time that this one finished.


Book #29 of 2013


Mistress To The Crown is the 12th title read and reviewed for AWW2013

2 responses to “Mistress To The Crown – Isolde Martyn

  1. Great review Bree. As you know, I didn’t really connect with Elizabeth or any of the other characters in the novel. I think you’re right about the King though and her interest in him- probably because we aren’t privy to his own thoughts it’s difficult to really figure him out. He was a bit of a child really.

    If you’d like a recommendation for another book of a similar style, I think you’d like The King’s Concubine by Anne O’Brien. I just re-read my review and realised this one is also in first person but I really connected with this story, far more than Mistress to the Crown. It’s about the mistress to the King, Alice Perrers.

  2. […] during February and that is Mistress to the Crown by Isolde Martyn which was reviewed by Teddyree, Bree and Lauren (and was also reviewed once during January and March as well!). This book tells the […]

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