On page 53 and it's not bad at all. I'm not the greatest fan of present tense, but I'm enjoying it. I couldn't quite see the point of the prologue (although it does get the Black Death in) but the first chapters are shaping up fine. Glad it starts eight years into Alice Perrers' reign as I couldn't face dragging through all her early life again after The King's Mistress, but VB has quite a different idea of Alice anyway. It's more conventional but also more believable. Alice seems real, not like a paper doll.
From chapter one:
Present tense or no, this is telling not showing, but I don't care, because (1) I prefer a couple of paragraphs of narrative to two pages of expository dialogue any day of the week; and (2) there's plenty of action too. My frustration with The King's Mistress was that there were so few scenes to engage me with the story. Here we've got Princess Joan throwing wine in Alice Perrers' face within the first thirty-odd pages. I had to smile considering how they were supposed to be BFF in TKM, but this works so much better....Alice has begun to understand that the enchanted dream she's been living in until now - the best part of a decade as the indulged darling of a dear old man who, himself, has been on the throne for nearly half a century, and is loved, everywhere, as England's greatest king - must soon come to an end. No one else seems to have noticed or to be planning their next move, although when Edward does pass on the end of his reign will surely affect them all.
Third person rather than first person stops this from feeling too much like Philippa Gregory, but actually the way the scene is set reminds me of PG before she stripped all the detail out of her books. There's just enough to paint a picture and not enough to overwhelm. I would actually have liked a line with the date and maybe location at the top of the chapter though. Even if I don't know the period, in fact especially if I don't know it, I like to orient myself.
I am really pleasurably surprised after everything I've heard about VB's earlier books. I wonder has she changed her style? But there have always been complaints about historical plausibility in her books, and that's an area where writers don't tend to improve.
I have to say so far the title doesn't seem desperately appropriate, the people seem to hate Alice.