The Witch of Eye
This novel weaves together the stories of three women from three different levels of 15th century English society: dairymaid, Jenna, who has run away from a violent husband in Devon; Margery Jourdemayne, wife of a prospering tenant-farmer in Westminster, and Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, who is married to King Henry VI’s uncle, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.
Jenna progresses in Westminster from dairy maid to become Margery’s assistant in her business providing herbal remedies for the court and in particular to the Duchess of Gloucester. Jenna and Margery’s husband fall in love with one another and know that their love must remain unrequited.
Margery has previously been accused of witchcraft and narrowly avoided conviction on that occasion, but hungry for greater wealth and status, she rashly decides to use dubious means to help the Duchess conceive a child.
Until the pimply, adolescent and weak-willed king marries and produces an heir, Eleanor’s husband, the Duke of Gloucester, is heir to the throne. Eleanor revels in her position as the most important woman in the kingdom, but she has a deadly enemy in her husband’s kinsman, Cardinal Henry Beaufort. In a society where misogyny is constantly lurking, seeing witches and whores in all females, sinister intents gather to threaten the three women.
The villains are occasionally a little too villainous and some plot resolutions are a little too pat; nevertheless, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read. A very well-researched story, where the narrative licks along irresistibly.