Review: A Triple Knot

Thursday, July 24, 2014

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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.(from Goodreads)

Back in my early teens, the Middle Ages were my reading sweet spot and I was so familiar with the Plantagenets they felt like family! I had Sharon Kay Penman to thank for my obsession and soon enough I had read a novel for at least every royal wife and princess from about 1100 on through to the time of the Tudors. I know I must have read about Joan of Kent at some point. I mean, Jean Plaidy must have written about her - am I right?

A quick check reveals that yes, she did - a novel that spawned this classic cover:

I will admit to owning this!

Why am I going into my teenage obsession for the Plantagenets?

Because quite honestly, I think that those days are now gone. I thought it would be fun to return to those times and a chance to read A Triple Knot seemed like the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, it did not grab and hold my interest. I found myself continually confused by all the Edwards and Phillipas - and that's never a good sign, given how many books I've read set in these times.

I really wanted to like Joan but she came across as a bit generic, a bit too much like the "childhood to old age" princesses I'd read about in so many other novels. Most of all, I was looking for a sense of the time or language that captured the feel of another world and I just didn't get that this time around.

These comments come with big disclaimers - one, I read this book during a crazy time at work so my brain was a lot more fried than when I was a teenager, sitting in my bedroom, chowing down on snacks and with all the time in the world to get lost in a book. Two, I burned out on princesses awhile ago - they lead fairly predictable lives. Campion does her very best in unraveling the hidden motivations and secrets behind Joan's marriages but it wasn't enough to keep me engaged.

So sadly, this book did not work out for me but I think it will work for many others looking for an introduction to Edward the Black Prince and Medieval marriage negotiations and gowns and Great Halls and all of those things I used to love about reading the Plantagenets.

Disclaimer: I received an advance e-galley from TLC Book Tours. 


Audra said...

Yes, yes, and yes. This is how I felt about this book (or feel, I'm at the halfway mark and just exhausted). I'm glad you were confused by the barrage of characters, too -- I almost gave up in the first chapter, it was just a mash of people. I'm starting to get some of who is who but Joan is just so white bread and obtuse, I can't take it...

Also, that Jean Plaidy cover is love. Ohemgee.

Historical Fiction Notebook said...

I've been on the author's website and she is clearly passionate about the historical research and her writing - I feel terrible that I was not able to connect with this book in the way I wanted.

As for the Jean Plaidy covers, there are plenty more where that came from! I had the entire Plantagenet Saga released in paperback in the 1980s and the covers are hilarious. There's one involving a king and queen kissing while on horseback in full robes and crowns that just looks completely wrong!

Leila @ Readers' Oasis said...

Oh, so interesting... I was totally obsessed with the Plantagenets as an early teen, too! It was Anya Seton's Katherine that got me started... then I read (over and over!) all the Jean Plaidy and Sharon Kay Penman books. I was completely convinced that I should have been a Plantagenet princess myself. You know, I wonder how I would feel about reading any of these, or a book like Campion's, now.... I think my reaction would be about the same as yours!

Historical Fiction Notebook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Historical Fiction Notebook said...

I keep meaning to read Anya Seton's Katherine... Unbelievably, I have never read it - and my name is Katherine! As a teen, I loved reading about the Plantagenets but I identified with the Tudors - not sure if that's a good or a bad thing!

heathertlc said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

Poppy Coburn said...

I love anything and EVERYTHING Plantagenets.

Have you read Karen Harper's First Princess of Wales? I found it to be AWFUL. It was pure torture to finish that book.

In comparison I did enjoy A Triple Knot. I found the writing more fluid and less flowery than FPW, however I did struggle with Joan at times. When I look at what we know about her historically she seems so much more colourful compared to how she has been portrayed in fiction. I do agree that certain characters motives were all over the place - Edward, Philippa for sure.

I didn't realise Plaidy wrote about Joan - will have to try and get my hands on a copy of that!

Great post!

Poppy Coburn

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