The People's Queen, By Vanora Bennett

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Anya Seton's 1950s classic, Katherine, set the benchmark in high-medieval romance, and few have matched her since. But recently two relative newcomers to the genre, Emma Campion and Vanora Bennett, have both revisited the court of Edward III - not to reprise Katherine Swynford's story, but that of another royal mistress, Alice Perrers.

In Bennett's version, the King's young consort emerges as a powerful player in her own right - a commoner who amassed a large fortune, while scheming with the likes of her sidekick Geoffrey Chaucer, that "clever little elf", and John of Gaunt.

The City merchants rise and the peasants revolt. More interested in bonds than bodice-ripping, Bennett convincingly evokes a period as fiscally turbulent as our own.