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Book  Royal MistressReviewed by Colleen Turner

Jane Lambert, the feisty, beautiful and witty daughter of a well-known London mercer, is content to remain unmarried at twenty-two until she can find the kind of love she has read about in books and which her father has never shown her even a glimpse of. But as her brazen, flirty ways could be troublesome for both her and her father’s reputations, she is married off to the dour and unloving mercer William Shore. Having tasted what she believes to be true love with the handsome Tom Grey, stepson of King Edward IV, Jane feels cheated by her marriage, one that will not even give her the chance of the love of children as her husband refuses her even this intimacy. Then Jane catches the eye of Will Hastings, the King’s chamberlain and close friend, and her life is set on a remarkable new course that will cement her place in history.

When Hastings brings Jane Shore to the King’s attention, Edward knows he must have her. Helping her seek an annulment from William Shore, she becomes Edward’s newest royal mistress and finds a deep passion and love, as well as security, in his arms. Over the next eight years Jane is content to use her closeness to the King for the betterment of the people of London and to find happiness with the King, even as her inner heart still longs for Tom Grey. But when her protector dies and his righteous brother Richard Gloucester takes the reigns of the throne and determines to bring morality back to the English people, Jane’s life – as well as those of Will Hastings, Tom Grey and many others of the old King’s court – are thrown into uncertainty. Jane’s role as royal mistress now places her very life in danger. As a woman who has always used her charming personality and intellect, as well as her beauty, in search of a happy life, Jane will need to use all of her powers to survive in this turbulent reign of Richard III.

While I have a number of Anne Easter Smith’s novels on my bookshelves, Royal Mistress is the first of her novels I have read. I am now kicking myself that I have waited this long! Her writing makes you feel like you are plopped down right in the center of late 15th century London, along for the roller coaster ride that was the end of the War of the Roses and the rise of the Tudors. While Jane’s point of view is central to the story structure, we get peaks into the minds and hearts of a number of characters – including Edward IV and his haughty Queen Elizabeth, Richard III and Will Hastings – and this allows for a thoroughly well rounded, full grasp of the events and feelings of all participants. For me, this helped humanize everyone involved and kept from dividing characters into clear good vs. bad categories.

Ms. Smith’s Jane Shore is an absolutely fascinating character and it is easy to see how she captured the hearts of not only these various high ranking men but also the very people of London she walked amongst. The author has taken what very little information history has provided us about Mistress Shore and has so fully fleshed her out that I cannot imagine her any other way. We are also given a very thorough Author’s Note section that clearly states what is known fact and what is interpretation or invention to build the story. This is incredibly important to me when reading historical fiction as I like to know what liberties the author has taken in presenting their story and what is historically accurate.

For lovers of historical fiction this is a must read. I would have given Royal Mistress a five star review if it wasn’t for the fact that I think those readers who aren’t as interested in reading history might feel slightly lost or bogged down by the sheer volume of history discussed. Even those not interested in the history will find it a fascinating story, however, and I highly recommend this to any and all readers looking for a delightful character that refuses to give up or live by other people’s standards.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Also by Anne Easter Smith: Queen by Right

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Touchstone. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.