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England and France
'What a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive' this famous quotation would certainly suit the story of Joan the Fair Maid of Kent.
At the age of fourteen, Joan enters into a secret marriage with a soldier of no account, Thomas Holand. He promptly goes off to the Holy Land to make his fortune but promises he will return. But her family have arranged a marriage with William Montagu, heir to Earl of Salisbury and he keeps her secret from everybody but her mother who convinces Joanne that the marriage was not valid as no priest was present.
The marriage is a cold one but begins to improve – until Thomas returns with, not exactly a fortune, but enough to appeal to Rome to restore his wife to him. To complicate matters, Joanne is cousin to King Edward III and she not only has an affair with him, but also with his son, Edward, the Black Prince.
Wanton, or innocent victim of men's manipulation and desires in an age when women were exploited? The reader will doubtless form their own opinion.
Ms Newark handles this situation very well indeed and follows the true story faithfully with just one piece of speculation regarding the fate of a former king. Well written, with convincing dialogue and backed up with solid research.
There were about four very minor typos in my copy and one unfortunate case of 'eyes being dropped'. This, and similar ‘eyes ran round the room’ cliché is a turn of phrase which sounds fine when spoken but somewhat absurd when written, but a common occurrence among writers, indie or established. The only reason I mention it is for the benefit of other writers and would-be writers to take note.
© Richard Tearle