Oh to be the mistress of a king! Or maybe that’s just me and my craziness I think of all the amazing experiences one would have, all the lavish surroundings, gifts, clothes, and none of the responsibility of being the queen and producing an heir. I mean really? How cool? And I’m sure the sex would be worth it too…ahem. But after reading Mistress to the Crown by Isolde Martyn, based on the true story of Elizabeth “Jane” Shore, I have changed my mind. In this touching take on what happened over 500 years ago, one sees that it was like walking the edge of a very sharp sword. One twist of the blade or one misstep, and all would be lost.
The day Lord Hastings came into her husband’s store, Elizabeth saw the opportunity she had waited twelve years for — a way to separate herself once and for all from her dull, impotent husband, William Shore. The handsome stranger presented not only the chance to partake in the dance of desire, but legal counsel to annul her 12-year marriage.
She did not, however, foresee her introduction to the King of England, nor her future at his side…and in his bed. From this unlikely alliance, Elizabeth is granted severance from Shore, and finds herself flourishing in the radiance of the King’s admiration. But she soon finds that her new position comes at a terrible price — her family has shunned her, the people of London have labelled her a harlot and the Queen’s family want her to burn in Hell.
So long as King Edward and Lord Hastings stay close, Elizabeth is safe. However, her beloved Ned falls ill and Lord Hastings falls out of favour.
Can Elizabeth’s wiles keep her out of trouble? Or will they lead her to further trouble…and the hangman’s noose?
As far as the characters go, we have to take them with a grain of salt. They are based on real people but we don’t really know who they were; we can only guess based on the little info left to us. Martyn does a great job though at breathing life into these long lost people. Elizabeth is neither weak nor overly ambitious. Though she does manage to be in the right place at the right time, with the right people -whether that is how it happened or not, who knows-. I felt sorry for what she endures through no fault of her own, and admired her spunk for standing up to those mistreating her.
The characters of King Edward IV and William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings (as well as other ‘minor’ characters in this tale), though playing a huge part in the story, don’t get as much attention. I don’t feel like I know them at all or could pick certain attributes between them to tell them apart. Other than Hastings is older and Edward IV, “Ned”, is the king. Mistress to the Crown is mostly about Mistress Shore, and what she endures. It means the view point is mostly on her, but I do wish I could have seen more insight into these two men. What I can give you, is that it makes sense she develops feelings for these two, they are both kind and generous toward her and take very good care of her.
The plot itself, again, we can’t judge as it’s based on real events. But, I am very intrigued about these three people, what really happened verses what Martyn dramatized. I did a quick search when I received this book so I could have an idea of who these people were, but I intend to dig deeper into this very touching story. From what little I did research, Martyn stayed true to actual events, which deserves a high five. Though she doesn’t have that Thomas Grey, 1st Marques of Dorset was another lover of Elizabeth’s as is believed. He’s sort of her enemy or nuisance in Mistress to the Crown, trying to get her to betray Edward IV by sleeping with him, and taunting her and such. She even covers the strange execution of Hastings, who literally one minute was supporting Richard III and helping him secure the crown, to being executed by Richard for unknown reasons without a trial or notification or anything, the next minute. She doesn’t give a lot of details over what happened, but then again, there aren’t any details, so it works out just fine. Also, I must point out that people speak the way they are supposed to, or close enough to it for my taste. It didn’t feel like modern people in time period clothing, if you know what I mean?
The pace of Mistress to the Crown is extra fast forward. The relationships between Shore and her lovers move so quickly, I found it hard to grasp onto what was happening. There weren’t enough indications that time was passing, for me. It was literally one second she was in love with Hastings and then she’s in love with Edward VI. I would have enjoyed this story more had the story been fleshed out more, give me more details, give me time frames to show these relationships lasted years. I understand that exact dates, locations, details of these relationships, etc. probably do not exist and it was just easier, to include very little ‘fluff’ to tell this story. Plus this is mostly how historical romance is written, after all, to save time and not have a book the size of an encyclopedia. But, it would have been nice for the pace to have been a little slower and a little more ‘hey heads up we’re now on year 2 of this romance’.
Before Mistress to the Crown, I knew very little about Richard III and Edward IV (who was the father of the Princes of the Tower); I was always far more interested in the Tudors (aren’t we all ha). Henry VII took the throne of England from Richard III incidentally. Anyway, Mistress to the Crown has perfect timing with the finding of Richard III’s long lost grave. That discovery made reading this novel even more exciting and enthralling for me.
In conclusion, I would like to say thank Isolde Martyn. Thank you for bringing these people to life again and showing us there are other interesting people in our past than just those who are deemed popular.