Written over half a century ago, this well-researched historical fiction is as vibrant and as stirring today, as it, undoubtedly, was when it was first written. It regales the reader with the story of Katherine De Roet and John of Gaunt. Beautifully written, it tells the story of Katherine, the youngest daughter of a herald who was knighted before he died.
Born commoners, Katherine and her older sister Philippa, who went on to marry Geoffrey Chaucer, were left poor as church mice. While Philippa managed to obtain a post in the household of the Queen, wife to King Edward III, Katherine went to a convent where she grew up.
When she had grown into her early teens and become a raving beauty, she left the convent to join her sister at Court. Upon doing so, her youthful beauty captivated a boorish knight, Sir Hugh Swynford, who lusted after her. He, eventually, married Katherine, when it became clear that it would be the only way by which he could satisfy his desire.
At the same time that she met her husband to be, she also caught the eye of John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, son of King Edward III and brother to the heir to the throne, Edward, the Black Prince. John was, at the time, happily married to a beautiful woman named Blanche, who would befriend Katherine.
After reluctantly becoming Lady Swynford, Katherine retired to her husband's estates. She would meet John of Gaunt again, igniting a passion that upon the death of Blanche and that of Sir Hugh Swynford would be consummated. For John of Gaunt, Katherine would remain the love of his life and his mistress, even though for reasons of state, he could not marry her, at the time. He, instead, married the heiress to the throne of Castile.
Still, Katherine remained with him, bearing him many children. Their illicit union was to cause much unrest and scandal throughout England, until they finally parted, only to reunite in their later years. John of Gaunt would then do something unprecedented. This act would bring them much happiness in their final years.
This is a richly drawn portrait of a scintillating love affair in a time that was rife with political intrigue. Set in a medieval landscape with all the pageantry, strife, and turbulence that constituted fourteenth century England, this narrative is peppered with those characters and individuals that made the period memorable. Beautifully written, it is a novel to be savored and one with which the most discerning reader would be well satisfied.