So I was given the chance to review this book during the summer but due to a hectic schedule I have only just had the time to do so. A Triple Knot is a historical fiction novel by Emma Campion which focuses on the life of Joan of Kent during the reign of Edward III.
As a big fan of medieval history I jumped at the chance to be able to review this book, even more so as I know little of the period which this talks about. I will admit that at the start of the book I found Joan to be a little too naive and perhaps a little bit too strong willed at the time. However, I did think that the naivety might have been something that could have been fostered on her by her upbringing.
As mentioned, the story follows the live of Joan from the age of around 11 until being in her mid-thirties with her marriage to Prince Edward. We first see Joan in her mother’s household as a child and how willfully she behaves and somewhat rudely to the Dowager Queen, Isabel. This results in her being sent to the court of Queen Phillipa and King Edward III in the Netherlands in order that she might learn how to behave properly, and also for the royal family to find her a suitor that will help their cause. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, Joan finds herself besotted with a young knight who looked after her during her crossing of the channel, Thomas Holland. This romance causes both Joan and Thomas many problems throughout the novel as they marry in secret.
This novel shows the complexities that were in place for people in positions of power to be able to marry whom they wanted without fear of reprisals. It also demonstrates the complexities that were faced when people decide to marry behind the backs of their family and in the more extreme cases, their King. Even though their marriage had been somewhat legally binding, the King and Joan’s mother have her married to the heir of the Earl of Salisbury.
From this moment on, and somewhat before, I found that I was rooting for Thomas and Joan to get back together. In the sense that their marriage would be recognised. As I didn’t know the history of their relationship I didn’t know for sure whether or not the Pope would agree with them and allow them to be together. I was ecstatic when they were allowed to live as husband and wife but then I felt that something horrible was going to happen as Prince Edward had always been lurking on the sidelines of Joan’s relationships.
I have to confess that I was hoping that Edward would never be able to marry Joan and that there would be a different ending for the two of them but unfortunately, you cannot rewrite history no matter how much you wish you could. I would have to say that this was the only part of the book that truly vexed me. I find that the ending to a lot of historical fictions leave me in this way.
I have read some reviews that harshly criticise the portrayal of Joan’s character and how quick she was to jump into bed with Edward after the death of her beloved Thomas. However, I think that the act makes sense. Throughout the story Joan has always felt a connection to her cousin even though she is never shown to have loved him like she loved Thomas; you can tell that she does have some sort of feelings for him. Also, she would have know that to reject him could have caused potential harm to the futures of her children and in a world where the patronage of a King or Prince could help secure yours and your children’s futures you would take it.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has an interest in historical fiction and the medieval period.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars