Monday, 25 December 2017

#CBR9 Book 116: "A Queen from the North" by Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese

Page count: 301 pages
Rating: 4 stars

In a slightly alternate timeline, where the Wars of the Roses never ended in England, the enmity between the Houses of York and Lancaster is still present. Lady Amelia Brockett, only daughter of the Earl of Kirkham, born and raised proudly in Yorkshire is not having the best Christmas. Dumped by her boyfriend of two years and rejected by the graduate school she was hoping for, her mother especially seems to see her as the disappointment of the family. Her life takes a surprising and dramatic turn when her eldest brother takes her for a post-Christmas trip to the races, where she meets the long-widowed Prince of Wales, a former school friend of her brother's.

Having lost his wife in a skiing accident more than a decade ago, Prince Arthur's closest heir is his sister and her two daughters, neither of whom are interested in ever taking the throne. His eldest niece, George, insists that it is time he look for a new wife, and it just so happens that there aren't a whole lot of suitable young ladies of noble birth on the short list. Amelia is offered the chance of being the first Queen from the North in centuries, uniting the Houses of York and Lancaster in a royal marriage. Since becoming a widower, Prince Arthur has developed quite the reputation as a playboy, and he's nearly twice Amelia's age, but he's undoubtedly still fit and very handsome and by marrying him, Amelia would have a unique chance to improve the position of Northern England, a region that has long been neglected and overlooked.

She wants time to get to know the heir to the throne better, but as soon as the press gets wind of their possible romance, she finds herself constantly besieged and followed by paparazzi and the newspapers are full of stories digging into her past. While she's always been raised to behave in a certain way, wanting to be a good representative of her region, the etiquette involved in dating the Prince of Wales is on a whole new level, and potentially becoming a princess means having to memorise binders full of information. Luckily, Amelia has support from her loyal best friend/room mate, her sister-in-law and a very friendly receptionist at Buckingham Palace, who refers to himself as her "royalty customer service representative". While she's honestly not sure what the enigmatic Princess George, Arthur's niece, really thinks of her, the other members of the Royal family seem welcoming enough. Not everyone in England is enthusiastic at the thought of the potential match and there could be serious political ramifications from the match. Is Amelia ready for all this?

This is one of those e-books I got in a sale a while back and then didn't think all that much about, until it popped up on a list of recommended royal romances after the announced engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. I'm not by any means a Royalist, nor do I fiercely believe that the monarchy should be abolished and we should just have a republic. In Norway, the royals are pretty down to earth, as such things go. Our Crown Prince married a single mother. His older sister runs corporate seminars about talking to angels (I'm absolutely not making this up, google it). From what I've read, Meghan Markle is way too awesome and interesting a person to basically become a glorified coat hanger who waves and smiles in public and pops out a baby once every so often, not actually allowed to express her honest opinion about anything (which seems to be all Duchess Kate does), but I'm also sure that she's weighed the advantages and disadvantages before accepting her new position, and I guess that if you truly love someone, you marry them even if it involves huge sacrifice.

What I liked about this book is that there is no whirlwind romance, but rather a very practical business arrangement that develops into something more. The unusual setting, that the book is set in an alternate timeline, where the Wars of the Roses were never properly resolved, and there are hints that the Crown Prince's niece and heir (who is also genderqueer - a very surprising and cool revelation) has supernatural powers (she considers herself the Court Witch) also added to its appeal. In a lot of aspects, this reads like a pretty normal British-set contemporary romance, but it's the small and subtle differences that made it a more fun read.

Obviously, with this being a romance, Amelia (who is called "Meels" by friends and family, possibly the worst nickname I've come across in a book in a long time) and Arthur do eventually fall in love. With the exception of the first chapter and a bit of the epilogue, however, the whole book is told from Amelia's point of view and because Arthur is very reserved, it takes her most of the book to realise that he loves her too, but there's been a number of external circumstances that make it difficult for him to reveal his true feelings. This also isn't a book that's heavy on the *insert funky bass line here*, with all sorts of things getting in the way every time the couple consider actually kicking the intimacy levels up a notch.

It seems as if this book is the first in a series, and I enjoyed the writing enough that I will happily check out more books by the Ms. McRae and Maltese.

Judging a book by its cover: Sometimes a self-published book means the cover will be awful, here I think they've done a pretty good job. There are the red and white roses that play a fairly significant symbolic part in the book, Big Ben (so you can tell at least part of the novel is set in London), ominous black birds (I'm assuming they're meant to be the ravens in the Tower) and a giant floating lady head, with a fancy updo, diamond jewelry and some sort of elegant evening gown - I'm assuming it's meant to be Amelia. Apart from the fact that the stone wall with the roses in the foreground reminds me of a war memorial, it's a perfectly decent cover.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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