Thursday, November 15, 2012

Alice by Sandra Wilson

Due to some recent health issues, I've gotten severely behind on reviews.  My goal is to try and get caught up over the next few weeks by posting fairly brief comments.  First up:  this 1976 novel about Piers Gaveston (gotta love that cover!!).

Alice Longmore is a wealthy heiress and married to a nephew of Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick.  When her husband is killed, Alice seeks protection from the new king – Edward II – since he is the only man more powerful than Warwick.  Once at court, she is a given a place in the Dowager Queen’s household and is introduced to Piers Gaveston.

Although Gaveston has a key role in any novel about Edward II, this one is unusual in two respects – Gaveston is the main character and he isn’t portrayed as the devil himself.  Alice is drawn to the charismatic Piers and their eventual relationship will provide a personal element to the feud between Warwick (and the other nobles) and Gaveston.

Gaveston is intelligent, shrewd and charming - and about the only thing propping up a weak, indecisive king.  His feelings for Edward are brotherly in nature and in order to deflect criticism away from Edward and his personal life, Piers allows the brunt of the nobles’ anger to fall on him.  Ultimately, he will sacrifice himself for the good of his king and his country.

This was a fun read – fast paced and full of conspiracies, plots and counterplots as Piers and Alice try to stay a step ahead of Warwick.   There’s also a slightly supernatural/old religion element that allows for some interesting (albeit rather far-fetched) developments.  The end of the book contains the following information that appears to have been the inspiration behind it:  (may be slightly spoilerish):

From the Official Guide to Warwick Castle:  “Soon after Gaveston’s execution, the Earl of Warwick died mysteriously; it has been suggested that he was poisoned by Gaveston’s mistress.”    

In case the FTC asks:  bought it used

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