This book was everything I would hoped it would be and more! I was enthralled from page one, wondering what Joanna's fate would be, watching her star rise and fall, and then rise again as she was reunited with her husband, Llewelyn.
From the onset, Joanna expected nothing more than a meager existence, one of never having enough and wondering sometimes what the next meal would be, to the daughter of the Count, and then daughter of the King of England. Base-born as she was, she made an excellent marriage, one of her father's, King John of England, choice. She was not happy with the arrangement at first, but fear grew into trust and then into love. The story of Joanna, John, and Llewelyn is one to leave anyone's head spinning and wondering how a woman would have managed to try and please both her father and her husband, and to keep them from killing the other when the need arose. She used her love for her father to bring about several peace treaties with her husband, although none of them lasted for long. Joanna found her patience tried, not only with her husbands children, but with her own family. She strove for unity in a time of war, when each was looking to expand their borders and their land holdings. Her story is truly one that is wrought with war, love, hate, and peace. It seems that for Joanna, peace was never on hand, and there are times when I was reading the book that I truly wondered how she could have endured so much, and yet managed to survive the outcome each time, looking for the best in each situation. Her formidable spirit, even though she was very gentle and sometimes to meek for her own good, played itself out into the very best of characters for her, and she allowed her faith to lead her through life, trying to maintain what she saw as normal wherever she went. Through her life in exile after her affair was exposed, and then winning back the affections of each of her children, and finally her husband was something that was unheard of in her times. For she truly was Eleanor of Aquitaine's granddaughter. Her grandmothers teachings had not gone unheard by young Joanna who brought much more out of those stories and quiet times with her grandmother than anyone could have thought she would have.
From the start to the finish, this book was so hard to put down! I found myself catching a page here and then when I had a few minutes to spare, and even putting everything else aside in order to get some extra reading time in. This was a story so amazing! Sharon K. Penman did a remarkable job in bringing the stories of these three lives into the light again and giving them breath once more.