Painfully shy and lonely, convinced she is unattractive and unloved, the dutiful Princess Beatrice finally accepts that she will never marry and vows to devote herself to the queen in Victoria’s waning years. In fact, her mother has secretly discouraged suitors for Beatrice’s hand. Just when she has all but given up on love and happiness, she meets Henry Battenberg, a dashing nobleman from the Continent who matches wits with the aging Victoria and risks his life and liberty to woo Bea.
But Henry isn’t the only man interested in being welcomed into Beatrice’s bed. The timid princess has become the target of a cruel plot hatched by her nephew, the madman destined to become the last Emperor of Germany. Wilhelm II sends a ruthless agent, a charming Scot, to seduce the naive princess and spy on the queen. How can the sheltered princess hope to fend off a man capable of murder, and perhaps worse, to get what he wants? But Beatrice is not without her own allies–her older sister Louise and Louise’s American soldier-of-fortune and lover, Stephen Byrne. Will Beatrice discover which of the two men pursuing her she can trust, before it’s too late? Drama, romance and peril chase the royal family from Buckingham Palace to a storm besieged castle on the Isle of Wight.
Victoran Era (England, 1870s)
Heat Rating: 1
Reviewer rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Caz
Seducing the Princess is the second book in a series of five, each of which takes one of Queen Victoria’s daughters as its central character; in this case her youngest, Princess Beatrice.
But this is not Historical Fiction in the sense that it is based entirely on fact with some fictionalised elements, so if you are looking to read a novel that charts the events of Beatrice’s life, this is probably not the book for you. This novel uses historical figures as its main characters, but the story itself is completely fictional.
Having said that, however, the historical background is sound.
Princess Beatrice was the youngest of Victoria and Albert’s children and at the age of twenty-seven feels herself to be firmly on the shelf. She is shy and downtrodden, lives in the shadow of her forceful mother – who still refers to her as “Baby” – and despairs of ever having a life of her own. But when she meets the handsome Prince Henry of Battenburg, she begins to chafe at the boundaries imposed on her as her mother’s companion and by life at court, which has been subdued and oppressive since Albert’s death more than twenty years before.
Beatrice and Henry are attracted to each other and soon fall in love, but when Henry asks for permission to marry Beatrice, he is summarily dismissed and banned from setting foot in England.
In the meantime, Victoria’s grandson Wilhelm (later Kaiser Wilhelm II) has decided he wants to plant a spy in his grandmother’s court. He hates the English and is jealous of England’s place on the world stage; envious of the Britain’s Empire he wants to expand Germany’s boundaries, and due to a physical disability, is always looking for ways to prove himself better and stronger than anyone else.
He recruits an old school-mate, a handsome young Scot by the name of Gregory MacAlister, to seduce and marry his aunt Beatrice which will give him eyes and ears at the highest level of the English court.
The story is part romance, part thriller, as MacAlister worms his way into Beatrice’s confidence, and we learn of the lengths he will go to in order to secure the success of his mission. But I think this is where the book falls down – MacAlister is too stereotypical a villain and the final third of the book descends rather rapidly into melodrama.
Overall however, it’s an engaging read, and the historical background is well-researched. Beatrice did indeed marry Henry of Battenburg; and Wilhelm’s Imperial aspirations are well-known to have been one of the major causes of the First World War. But the story in the foreground – that of the plot to marry Beatrice to Wilhem’s spy is completely fictional.
I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader. I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back! I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too. I post all my reviews at my Goodreads page so please come and say hello!