This classic romance novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history-that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets-Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II-who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king's son, falls passionately in love with the already married Katherine. Their well-documented affair and love persist through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption. This epic novel of conflict, cruelty, and untamable love has become a classic since its first publication in 1954.
I enjoyed this so much! It came recommended by a friend (thanks Cretia!) and was worth every word. This book took me a little longer to read, but it's fascinating. Aside from the brilliant and compelling love story, what really sucked me into this book is the history. This is technically historical fiction, but the setting and most of the characters are as accurately portrayed as research allows. I loved the politics and the social struggles going on. Characters like Chaucer and John Wyclif make big cameos and I thought all the info in the changing religious scene was incredibly well done. Also, I loved the details on pilgrimages and the effects of the plague. Wow! This book is just sooo interesting! Plus, it's emotional. The characters are so real and their suffering is so compelling. I totally teared up at the end (I won't tell you what happens, even though it's widely-known history - just in case you don't know). Boy, am I ever glad that I wasn't born in medieval times.
The only disclaimer I have to make about this book is that, being medieval, there were some rather bawdy and lewd bits of humor. Aside from that, the whole fact that Katherine was John deGaunt's mistress is actually treated very tastefully - if you can believe it. Anyway, I recommend Katherine to all fans of historical fiction.