The King’s Concubine: A Novel of Alice Perrers – by Anne O’Brien – independent book review – Historical Fiction (England)

I enjoyed reading this book, though there were a few places where it read like a trashy romance novel. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

Before this book, I only knew Alice Perrers as Edward III‘s “evil” mistress, vaguely aware that she was supposed to have been power-mad, greedy, and vicious. The portrayal of Alice in this book is quite different. She simply has the sensibilities of a modern woman, living in the 1300s. 

Abandoned at birth and left to the brutal rearing of a convent, it’s a rags-to-riches story. But not an ordinary one. Given the circumstances of Alice’s early life, she grows up unwilling and unable to trust others and determined to rely on her wits alone to secure a future for herself and later her children.

Unlike most royal mistresses, Alice doesn’t advance simply because she’s beautiful, talented, or otherwise able to catch the eye of important people. Instead, she rises because she is blunt, clever in business, determined, and fiercely independent. Even though these characteristics run counter to the rules society tries to impose. 

In fact, it turns out that her wiliness, the thing that sets her apart from other women, is the very thing that brings her to the attention of royalty. And it’s intriguing to watch Alice navigate King Edward’s III’s medieval world where her attitudes and actions, ones that would now be considered commonplace and acceptable, were challenged and perceived as threats. It certainly explains why she has come down through history with such a bad reputation.

Anne O’Brien
Photo from her website

More about Anne O’Brien.

You may also be interested in my review of other historical novels by O’Brien:

The Scandalous Duchess.

The King’s Sister

The Forbidden Queen

And, as it turns out, I have also read another historical novel about Alice Perrers, The King’s Mistress by Emma Campion. Here’s that review.