Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Random House | Crown
Pages: 480 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads
Summary (from Goodreads)
Joan of Kent, renowned beauty and cousin to King Edward III, is destined for a politically strategic marriage. As the king begins a long dynastic struggle to claim the crown of France, plunging England into the Hundred Years’ War, he negotiates her betrothal to a potential ally and heir of a powerful lordship.
But Joan, haunted by nightmares of her father’s execution at the hands of her treacherous royal kin, fears the king’s selection and is not resigned to her fate. She secretly pledges herself to one of the king’s own knights, one who has become a trusted friend and protector. Now she must defend her vow as the king—furious at Joan’s defiance—prepares to marry her off to another man.
In A Triple Knot, Emma Campion brings Joan, the “Fair Maid of Kent” to glorious life, deftly weaving details of King Edward III’s extravagant court into a rich and emotionally resonant tale of intrigue, love, and betrayal.
Thoughts on A Triple Knot
As soon as I read the summary for A Triple Knot, I thought of Kelly from Belle of the Literati because this is totally a story she'd read. I, on the other hand, really haven't read very much from this time period. I love the combination of England + royalty, so I'm not really sure why I haven't read more books like this one. Either way, I knew I couldn't pass this one up when I spotted it on NetGalley. It sounded pretty fascinating!
A Triple Knot is the story of Joan of Kent, "a renowned beauty and cousin to King Edward III." Because of who she is -- and the time period in which she lives -- Joan knows that she must make a strategic marriage. There's no such thing as marrying for love. Instead, she must make an alliance, help the Crown and further others' interests. The king wants her to marry a man who could help him win the Hundred Years' War, but Joan isn't going into marriage without a fight. Her father was executed years ago by their royal kin, and Joan's family has been a thorn in their side ever since.
The book opens with a scene from Joan's childhood - showing Joan's spirit and of her cousin Ned's dangerous jealousy. From there, it jumps forward in time and focuses more on people trying marry Joan off to the most advantageous man. I found the book difficult to get into at first. Although there are a few pages in the beginning identifying all the various characters, it feels so overwhelming when you start the book. There wasn't enough explanation of who everyone was and how they were all related to one another within the book itself, so I struggled to get through the first several chapters.
The king wants Joan to marry someone who will help his cause, but the man scares Joan. So, she takes matters into her own hands and clandestinely pledges herself to one of the king's own knights. It's a match made in secret, and the repercussions of the arrangement are far reaching. Here's the thing: A Triple Knot paints this as a love match, which it may very well have been historically. But holy cow, it's a little difficult to get invested in a couple Joan is only TWELVE at the time and is "passionate" about a man at least twice her age. Even though their relationship really happened, it was a little weird to read about from the lens of today.
There were a number of things I enjoyed about the book: the characters were interesting and the research was evident. I'd never heard of Joan before the book, and it was clear to see that she wasn't the typical woman of the time. She certainly tries to control her own life and her future, which was so admirable. For the most part, I liked that the book focused so much on the political intrigue, even though it occasionally made the pace feel a bit slow. And once I had the different characters straight, I felt that Campion did a great job of highlighting their different agendas.
While I did enjoy those elements, I didn't really connect to the book. The characters were interesting, but I wasn't invested in their outcome. The politics were intriguing, but it sometimes made the book feel a little dry. The political aspect of marriage was historically accurate, of course, but it was a bit confusing to have so many competing agendas in the love life of a twelve-year-old girl. Finally, the book covers a large span of time, but it glosses over so much that it felt a bit disjointed at times. It takes so long for Joan's future to be resolved and then it just speeds through everything that happens next.
I'm a little on the fence about A Triple Knot. If you like this time period and type of story, I think it's worth it for you to give it a shot. But I would probably hesitate to recommend it to someone who didn't already love historical fiction. It's a good read - not perfect but still interesting. At the end of the day, I'm glad that I learned more about the "Fair Maid of Kent" and have more insight into that part of history.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. I was not compensated in any way for my review.