You know what they say: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Even so, I have to admit I was a little uncertain about A Triple Knot, by Emma Campion (Random House, 2014). The cover borders on “bodice-ripper”, somewhat reminiscent of the Harlequin Romances I shuddered at during my bookseller years. (You know, the ones that used Fabio as the model…) But when I saw that the author had dedicated it to a Professor of Medieval and Renaissance History at the University of Edinburgh, and that she had included a bibliography, I decided to give it a try, because I love good historical fiction. I was not disappointed.
Set in fourteenth century Plantaganet England, France, and Ghent, this novel tells the story of Joan, the “Fair Maid of Kent”, who is best known as the cousin and wife of Edward, the Black Prince. The title could refer either to the fact that Joan was married three times, or to the fact that through her clandestine first marriage and her second (and subsequently annulled) marriage, Joan was clearly the marital choice of her third husband, Edward, despite the disapproval of his parents. The author reports that her curiosity about Joan was piqued by the fact that she requested in her will to be buried with her first husband, Thomas Holland, instead of with Edward.
The writing is not the best I’ve encountered, though Campion tells a good story. Some of her characters seem a bit forced, and sentences like “they melted together” feel a bit simpering. But good material will always win out in the end, and Joan’s story is fascinating. She emerges as a strong woman who knows what she wants despite a brutal family and a brutal time. The author has a good grasp of the minutia of medieval life, which makes this novel a compelling immersion in the sights, sounds, and smells of the past. If you are a fan of Philippa Gregory or Sharon Kay Penman, you will enjoy this addition to the historical fiction genre.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.