Review: Epitaph for Three Women (Plantagenet Saga, Book 12) by Jean Plaidy

Epitaph for Three Women (Plantagenet Saga, #12)Epitaph for Three Women by Jean Plaidy

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Book Description (via Goodreads):

On the death of Henry the fifth, a nine-month-old baby is made King of England. Ambitious men surround the baby king, including his two uncles, the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester. Shrewd and clever, Bedford seeks to uphold all his late brother had won and preserve it for young Henry the sixth. Gloucester, a man of poor judgment, greedy for wealth and power, has other ideas. In Lancastrian England and war-torn France, there are three women whose lives are to have a marked effect on the future. Katherine de Valois, haunted by an unhappy childhood, finds love in an unexpected quarter and founds the Tudor dynasty; Joan of Arc leaves her village pastures on the command of heavenly voices; and Eleanor of Gloucester is drawn into a murder plot and becomes the center of a cause celebre. Murder, greed and ambition flourish alongside sacrifice, dedication and courage. These are turbulent times as the defeated become the victorious…


2.5 stars

Epitaph for Three Women turned out to be far less about these three women than I was led to believe by the book’s description. Broken into three parts titled Katherine of Valois, Joan of Arc, and Eleanor of Gloucester, only Joan, or Jeannette rather, has an actual story that follows her path in life. The other two are background players to the politics going on at the time, especially those concerning the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester and England’s fight for France. Whenever Katherine enters the picture, it’s all light, airy, and extremely romanticized, especially in regards to Owen Tudor. For most of the book they live a totally idyllic life that doesn’t feel realistic in the least. Eleanor Cobham is portrayed as a scheming, crown-hungry social climber who proves far too trusting of witches and soothsayers. Isabeau of Bavaria fares even worse and I got tired of the constant references to how whorish she was. Since this was written, historians have looked into the accuracy of her reputation and dismissed certain facets as untrue. Still, this isn’t a completely bad book. Putting aside Katherine’s storyline where she only made cameo appearances anyway, I enjoyed the first part the most. Not knowing much about this period, the history was fascinating. The second featuring Jeannette was my least favorite, but I lay full blame at my feet because I have just never cared for Joan of Arc’s story, so found most of this part boring. While there was some interesting information in the book, I didn’t love the book but it’s an easy introduction to this particular time.

For more information on Eleanor Cobham, I recommend Susan Higginbotham’s guest post at Madame Guillotine.

Originally Reviewed: October 17, 2012
Received: Local Library


7 thoughts on “Review: Epitaph for Three Women (Plantagenet Saga, Book 12) by Jean Plaidy

  1. That’s the problem with Jean Plaidy’s novels. While I enjoy those that I’ve read and think they’re well-written, they were written so long ago that any new historical discovery or investigation casts the storylines into doubt and makes the books seem outdated and, well, creaky.

    • But for someone like me, they’re a great starting place to at least get the general idea of the era. I’m already suspicious by nature, so I don’t take anything as fact. Well, maybe some things, like proper nouns. 😛 My problem with this one wasn’t so much the outdatedness (except in Isabeau’s case. Now that’s someone I’d like to see written about. By someone good naturally.), but how little the women were actually developed.

      • Oh, no doubt they’re a great place to start and, as I said, they’re entertaining for the most part. That said, any author, especially one as prolific as Plaidy, is bound to produce a dud or two. Judging by one of the replies she left on her post about Eleanor Cobham, it sounds like Susan Higganbotham might be tackling her story one day, so that’s something–who knows, she might also take on Isabeau. 😉 And look at it this way: Though the women in this book weren’t well developed, it still led you to learn more about them (I’m guessing). So you’ve expanded your knowledge a bit, thanks to a rather mediocre book. 🙂

      • I can’t believe that everyone gave this a five on Amazon, it’s just not that good. If my review was a little better, I’d post it over there, but I never even planned to write one; just have a few notes on the book. I’ve never read Higganbotham before, so don’t know if I like her writing or not, but I have liked her posts, so I’d guess I would. I’ve come across some other women (and probably some men too) in books that I wish authors (good ones, I might add) would write about, instead of another lame book about Anne Boleyn or Eleanor of Aquitaine or whomever.


      • Your review isn’t that bad–I’d say go ahead and post it on Amazon. If, for nothing else, to provide a different view from all the 5-star reviews. I bet most of those are because the person read the book years ago, had fond memories of it, and gave it a glowing review out of nostalgia. Either that, or they love any and everything Plaidy writes. I’ve got one of HIgginbotham’s (I spelled it wrong earlier–whoops!) novels sitting on my shelf–The Traitor’s Wife–which I got pretty much based on the strength of her blog. She seems to be a thorough and competent historian/researcher and even though her blog entries are non-fiction, they’re compelling reading, so I figured her novels would be equally so. Oh, I know, there are so many interesting, yet relatively ignored historical figures out there that I would love a good historical writer to get their hands on. Like you, I’m tired of authors retreading the same familiar territory; if it’s not another book about Marie Antoinette, it’s a book about Queen Elizabeth I or, as you said, Anne Boleyn. How many times can you tell the same story, people? *rolls eyes*

      • Eh, it’s still not the best. That was my guess on those reviewers as well. I have one of hers too, The Stolen Crown, that I got as a Kindle freebie a loooooonnnng time ago (BTW I totally didn’t notice how you spelled Higganbotham). That’s the impression I get too. Oh yes, how could I forget Marie Antoinette? Apparently not enough or in an realistic and interesting manner. Usually, from reviews I’ve read, they paint these women either black or white, instead of who they probably were, somewhere in the middle of all that grey. *rolls eyes too*


      • Yeah, well, compared to some of the reviews people put up, it’s practically poetic. ;P Ooh, you got one of hers as a freebie–jealous! I don’t know, how could you forget Marie Antoinette? After all, a new novel about her appears every two years or so. And, yeah, the books always seem to go with some sort of revisionist history, that the women were utter saints or depraved whores/witches; only rarely do we get a book which portrays them as *gasp* actual human beings! :/

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