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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Countess Jacqueline by Gail Meath takes us back in time to thirteenth-century Europe, the power plays and intrigues of rulers determined to claim and unite parts of France and Holland for themselves. Jacqueline is the only child of Lord William, ruler of the Netherlands, and the heir to the title and rulership. She was known as a wild, forceful child and as a woman, there was always going to be intense pressure on her to marry well to ensure the continuity of her rule and the safety of her people from potential invaders from all over Europe. When Philip, the eldest son of the Duke of Burgundy, was sent to Holland to request the hand in marriage of the wilful thirteen-year-old princess, he was rebuffed – a rejection that would set in motion a chain of events that would torment and persecute Jacqueline for the rest of her life. Accompanying Philip that day were two friends, squires of Duke John, Renard, and Geoffrey, who would play a significant part in the Countess’s future. Palace intrigue, political marriages, fearsome battles, and downright treachery will accompany the Countess as she tries to fulfill her father’s dreams of a settled, peaceful, and free Netherlands for her people. She will have to suppress her feelings for Renard, a love that can never be, for the greater good of her beloved people.
As a lover of historical fiction and especially fiction based around true events and characters, I absolutely gobbled up this fantastic adventure that is Countess Jacqueline. Author Gail Meath takes us right into the epicenter of northern European politics and royal intrigue in the Middle Ages. So much has been written and read (by me) of English royalty of the time, it was incredibly refreshing to see the period described by these “minor royals” of Europe. Their intrigues and battles were no less interesting than those of the Tudors or Plantagenets. The two main characters, Jacqueline and Renard, were beautifully drawn and compelling, as was the obvious attraction and love between the pair. Jacqueline, especially, was so appealing as a strong, independent, and powerful woman of her time torn between the love of country and her love for Renard. Not without her faults, I loved that she often acted impulsively and suffered the consequences of those actions. The author drew her as a wonderful, compassionate leader, although far too headstrong for her own good at times. The fact that she was a real leader from the annals of history just made this narrative all the more compelling to read. The romance, the battles, the spies, the treachery were all fascinating and combined to make this one of the most enjoyable books I have read of late. I love it when I find a new author that absolutely zings with me and I will definitely be checking out other works from this talented wordsmith. A joy to read and a book I can highly recommend.