August 7th, 2014

the red queen.

Review: A Triple Knot by Emma Campion

A Triple Knot
by Emma Campion

I reviewed Emma Campion’s previous novel, The King’s Mistress, in 2010.

Joan of Kent, niece of King Edward III, is a political pawn of her family. Years ago, her father was executed for treason, so Joan’s every move is watched as her mother and royal kin begin to prepare her for a strategic marriage that will strengthen their ties in France. Still young and innocent at twelve, Joan playfully promises to marry her cousin Ned, the heir to the throne. But Joan is soon sent away, promised to the son of Sire d’Albret. Her future father-in-law frightens Joan, for he’s constantly touching her inappropriately, but her complaints are ignored. Worse still for her future, Joan’s fallen in love with a handsome knight, Thomas Holland – a man twice her age with neither the wealth nor social status to ever be accepted by the king as her husband. But true love conquers all, and when the alliance with d’Albret becomes shaky Joan seizes the chance to marry Thomas. But upon her return to England, Joan is hastily married to yet another nobleman, and her protestations that she already has a husband are ignored. As years pass with Thomas fighting in France and her new husband, Will, barely able to tolerate her, Joan catches the eye of her still-smitten cousin, Ned, who hasn’t forgotten the childish vows they made to each other long ago.

If this sounds like a tangled mess of love, well, it is. Young nobility in 14th century England apparently fell in love quickly and urgently; at eight years old, Ned has decided that Joan will be his future queen while at twelve, she’s found her one true love in Thomas Holland. Even knowing that people got married in their teens at this period in time, I can’t shake the ick factor that comes when Joan consummates her clandestine marriage to Thomas. She’s twelve and Holland is in his mid-twenties! The knight himself condemns one man for pursuing Joan at such a tender age, and here he is doing the exact same thing. It’s a bit hard for a modern reader.

There’s a lot of intrigue in the book, and not just when Joan is running about juggling multiple marriages while flirting with Prince Ned. Whenever the story would veer into some of the political machinations of Edward III, I’d perk right up. But too soon, the story would go back to Joan fretting over one man or another, and my interest would flag. The men in her life were too one note to be anything than flimsy, two-dimensional creations: Thomas too noble and perfect; Will too cruel and weak; Ned too arrogant and royal. Too much bodice-ripping, not enough politics! (Never thought I’d be saying that particular phrase…) I just wanted to get back to the invasion of France and the business of keeping all those kids in the court occupied.

I had really enjoyed Campion’s previous novel, so perhaps my expectations were just too high for this one. A Triple Knot could be seen as a prequel to The King’s Mistress, since it ends a year or two before Alice Perrers, protagonist of the latter, becomes the mistress of Edward III.

2.5 out of 5 stars

To read more about A Triple Knot, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the in:
2013: Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle
2012: Fashionista Piranha on break until August 14th
2011: Tales of Woe by John Reed
2010: Guest Post: Cecelia Holland, author of ‘The Secret Eleanor’
2009: News: Elizabeth Woodville, 15th century English queen, on Twitter
2008: One More Year by Sana Krasikov