Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson

Hello, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Joanna Hickson's The Agincourt Bride.

Mette was just fourteen when she lost her first child. Her loss left her bereft beyond measure but her mother was able to secure her a position as wet nurse for the King's newborn daughter. At first, Mette feels no connection with the child. Instead, she continues to mourn the loss of her own son, wishing it were he she was caring for. But soon she and Catherine begin to form a bond - one that will stand the true test of time. 

Amidst political upheaval - a king whose sanity leaves him unable to rule and a queen who's plotting with her lover against the king's advisors - the royal children are sent down separate paths. Catherine, just four at the time, is sent to Poissy where she will be taught the manners and bearing of a royal. It will be almost ten years before Mette is reunited with the girl. But this time Catherine will need more than mothering: the princess is to become an important piece in a game that pits the French against the English and, more importantly, her brother the Daughin against their mother, the queen. 

Ooh, more historical intrigue! As a US student, there's very little included in our education about the lineage of any country's monarchy. In truth, I have to admit that my ability to keep them straight comes from historical references I've gleaned through pop culture and books like Hickson's. So this Catherine of history is Catherine de Valois. Her brother is the king Joan of Arc fights for. Her son (Henry VI) is the king dethroned during the War of the Roses. Her grandson (Henry VII) is the king who finally ends the battle between the Lancasters and the Yorks.

But that's not this story! This is Catherine's younger years - from birth through to her marriage to King Henry V (and there's a sequel called The Tudor Bride from that marriage forward). Her story is told through Mette - Guillaumette - Catherine's nurse and friend.

It's a turbulent time in France. Their leader's mental health has been in decline and forces from England have been attempting to reclaim French lands for themselves. Charles VI, Catherine's father, becomes fairly unable to rule and the actual decision making falls into the hands of various others like his uncle, the Duke of Burgundy. Loyalties are split between two parties - the Burgundians and the Orleanists and no one is safe from the strife.

Meanwhile, Henry V of England is the latest to try to lay claim to land in France said to belong to England. Catherine, caught between her mother's plans and her brother's, is offered up as a possible bride for Henry in an attempt to forge a treaty. Catherine is well aware of the position she's in. In fact, Hickson portrays her here as an intelligent girl who attempts to forge her own political connections, first aligning herself with her brother against their mother. She also sets aside many of the social norms of the time in an attempt not only to piece together a family of sorts but to learn more about what's going on around her.

Hickson really does a wonderful job in The Agincourt Bride, smoothly plotting around the history itself and building believably complex characters out of their real basis. The story reads quite easily and quickly - just the kind of historical fiction I like to lose myself in!

With The Agincourt Bride Hickson displays a true expertise in the time period. As mentioned above, there is a second installment - The Tudor Bride - already out in the UK and due out here in the States this fall.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Joanna Hickson and her books, you can like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I love learning interesting facts from history though fascinating historical fiction like this.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!