Catherine de Valois, daughter of the French king Charles VI, is born into troubled times. Though she is brought up in a royal court, it is a stormy and unstable environment. Before she is out of her teens, Catherine is married off to England’s Henry V as part of a treaty honoring his victory over France. She is terrified at the idea of being married to a man who is a foreigner, an enemy, and a rough soldier, and is forced to leave her home for England.
Within two years she is widowed, and mother to the future King of England and France—even though her brother has laid claim to the French crown for himself. Caught between warring factions of her own family and under threat by the powerful lords of the English court, she must find a way to keep her infant son safe. In Owain Tudor, a childhood friend for whom Catherine has long had affection and who now controls the Royal household, Catherine finds both strength and kinship. As their friendship turns to love, however, she risks not only her life and that of her son but the uneasy balance of power in England and France that will be forever changed.
History comes alive in this lyrical and moving true story of one woman’s courage and the inception of one of the most famous royal lineages of all time.
Romantic Historical Fiction
Heat rating- 2
5 of 5 stars
REVIEW BY: Ginger Myrick
When Emery sent out the call for reviews earlier this month, I was knee-deep in research for my new WIP. The Queen’s Lover by Vanora Bennett was part of my reading, so I responded, saying that I would have the review ready to post by the following week. As soon as I did I thought, What did I get myself into? How am I supposed to find a quiet spot to read this 585-page book in the next few days AND write a review? I needn’t have worried. As soon as I sat down and cracked it open, I was whisked away into the world of 15th century France as effectively as if I had experienced it firsthand.
The love story at the core between Owain Tudor and Catherine de Valois is charming and well done, and although I knew the history behind it and the eventual outcome, Bennett does a terrific job of immersing her readers enough to forget the history and bite their nails, wondering how the characters will ever find a way to wind up together. Bennett also does a fantastic job of portraying the subtleties of the madness that ran through the veins of the Royal French family. There are hints here and there that remind the reader of the insidious specter that would eventually tell in Catherine and Henry VI. The characters are well-developed and real, embodying admirable human qualities as well as human failings.
The writing style is clean with an organic cadence and natural dialogue with an occasional lovely and strategically placed turn of phrase that makes the reader stop and reread it simply for its lyrical continuity. The history included in this sweeping work ranges from Paris at its height of glory and erudition to the crumbling ruins it would become after its downfall following the English victory at Azincourt. It tells of the subsequent internecine strife even touching on Jehanne of Arc whose visions led to the crowning of Charles VII in Reims and eventual victory over the English to end the Hundred Years’ War.
I do feel I need to qualify this review by saying that I am an avid reader of heavily historical tomes that present a more leisurely-paced story with lots of details and a comprehensive look at precipitating factors. When I choose reading material, I want to, above all, be entertained but also to learn something new and to be inspired to seek out more. I don’t mind a bit of conjecture (read ‘artistic license’) on the part of the author if it is creative, fits in with the whole of the story, and is a somewhat logical premise supported by historical fact. After all, it is historical fiction, is it not? This book succeeded on all points. This is everything I look for in a book and part of what I aspired to do with my own novel, El Rey. This is the first work I have read by Vanora Bennet, but it will not be the last. I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the Lancasters, Tudors, or Wars of the Roses, Welsh, English, or French history of the era.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Ginger Myrick was born and raised in Southern California. She is a lifetime reader of romantic historical fiction who recently (and quite unexpectedly) discovered a talent for writing it. Although having researched, written, and self-published her first novel, EL REY: A NOVEL OF RENAISSANCE IBERIA, in just under two years, she still does not consider herself a writer. She recently took first prize in the Rosetta Literary Contest 2012 with THE CONVERSO, a novelette chosen from a field of worldwide submissions. Along with the promotion for El Rey, The Converso, and three other TALES FROM RENAISSANCE IBERIA, she is currently crafting her second novel, which takes place during the U.S. Civil War. website: http://gingermyrick.com/ Twitter: @ginger_myrick Facebook: Ginger Myrick