As a novel, the story of a rise of Alice Perrers might seem a bit dry, but as a historical account of a magnificent woman who achieved so much way ahead of her time? It's glorious!
I loved Alice Perrers because no matter what she faced she kept her integrity. I'm actually really fascinated with that time period and Plantagenets are my favorite royal branch of British monarchy.
The narration is led by Alice Perrers largely from her memories. She talks about her common upbringing in the Abbey on the outskirts of London and a strange series of events that made her rise up so unexpectedly high.
What surprised me most was that Alice is not pretty, she is considered ugly but her features are just striking. Because she is convinced that her appearance is worthless she relies on her sharp wit, business instinct and for the most of her life avoids mirrors. Her forthrightness and charm is what attracts the men in her life.
Edward III is portrayed in the sunset of his reign, but he is still blinding Alice with his golden glow and when she meets him she is truly admiring him and slowly falls in love despite the huge age difference between them (she is 17 and he is 50+). Edward is such an interesting monarch!
His marriage to Philippa when they both were just kids became a love match and they raised 12 children together, however Philippa is dying from a grave illness (I'm guessing it might be a severe rheumatoid arthritis because she is in a lot of pain most of the time and the slightest touch feels like torture) so when she meets Alice she decides to push her in Edward's path so she would become his mistress in her own stead.
Two women make a sort of a silent pact. Alice's respect and admiration for Philippa is running deep, but she has to keep silence and be despised by the court for capturing King's heart and betraying the Queen.
There are so many yummy bits in this novel I'm at loss as to what to talk about. Alice herself is one of these rare women who manage to create incredible path for themselves. When she is married for the first time, she makes a decision to buy her first property with her husband's secretary help. By the time she's been King's mistress for 10 years she is an owner of 56 properties around London. 56! Do you know how incredibly rare this is for a woman of common upbringing or any upbringing in those days? I was in awe of her.
She stays loyal to the King especially when his health falters and he starts to deteriorate physically and mentally. She tries to protect him no matter what.
Her second husband reminded me of Rhett Butler. William de Windsor is an ambitious, cold-hearted son of a bitch but at the same time over the years between cutting remarks and ugly truths which pepper his verbal exchanges with Alice they develop genuine affection for each other which get them through the hardships of King's final days and his death.
The King's Concubine is a very interesting novel, full of charismatic intense characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.