Book Review for “The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel” by Georgie Blalock.
Being the second born in any British aristocratic household has its drawbacks, but none more than being the younger sibling of the heir apparent. This wouldn’t have been so much of a problem for Princess Margaret, except that when Edward the II abdicated the throne, giving the crown to his brother, Margaret suddenly became that awkward royal – the one who will never wear the crown, but still be in the limelight. Instead of deferring to that position along with accepting all the rights and privileges thereby accorded to her, she acted out, and set about surrounding herself with as many glamorous people she could find, known as the Set. One of them, was the Honorable Miss Vera Strathmore. Vera was one of those women whose family awarded her high birth, but without the income to enjoy it much. With no means of employment, but a passion for writing slightly steamy, but just scandalous enough romance novels (with less than enthusiastic sales), Vera became the perfect addition to Her Highness’ Set, eventually leading to becoming one of the Princess’ ladies-in-waiting. While that sounds glamorous, the question is, at what cost does one devote their life to their country’s most naughty royal?
First of all, let’s get one thing completely clear; Vera is a figment of Blalock’s imagination. Mind you, some of Princess Margaret’s ladies-in-waiting did get some notoriety for their closeness to her, and a couple became practically infamous when they wrote tell-all memoirs or disclosed to the tabloid press any of their time in her circles or service (one of which is due to be published next year). In this, I’m sure that Blalock had no small amount of real fodder upon which she could build Vera’s character. Plus, the fact that Blalock decided to make the main protagonist someone other than the Princess was an excellent move. This reminded me of Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb’s book “Meet Me in Monaco” where the story belongs to two people whose lives intersect with that of Grace Kelly/Princess Grace. Why I think this is a good move is because those who orbit fame can also see its blemishes where the famous person often cannot.
But I must admit that there is a drawback to reading stories about the hardships of the rich and famous. I mean, do we really care? Surely their problems aren’t all that bad – at least they have food, clothing, shelter, and a whole lot more. I even stopped reading one novel recently because the problems of the wealthy, high born characters in the novel just turned me off. But I have always had a fascination with Princess Margaret, because despite how much she had going for her, I think she was treated very poorly by both her family and the government when it came to her wanting to marry the man she truly loved. Knowing all this, Blalock decided to draw Vera as a woman whose life had some parallels to that of Princess (obviously, minus the enormous wealth), and thereby allow even more insights into the some of what might have been going on inside this royal’s heart and mind. These are the things that raise the questions of how far we take our loyalty to someone or something, and where do we cross the line and abandon that for our own personal happiness.
I should mention that Blalock’s writing style was somewhat on the formal side, which I think fit in well with the era and personalities of this story, but there were times when it felt slightly stiff, although not so much as to to be off-putting. This happened more when Blalock was describing aspects of the various settings where the action took place, such as how she detailed things like gardens, dresses, furniture, and jewelry. These additions felt more like the stuff of gossip columns and fashion or entertainment magazines than a novel, by having more precise detail than emotion in them.
On the other hand, when it came to Vera and her life, how she felt about where she was, who she was with, what she wanted, and what she was doing, we could feel all of the distinct mixed feelings that those things entailed. That means that despite all the accoutrements feeling hollow, Vera was a very believable and likeable character. Mind you, I think Vera did hold on a bit more than she should have, but then that might have lessened the impact of the conflict and the climax. Finally, I have to admit that Blalock concluded this book with just the right touch, with an ending that was both historically correct, and not overly sentimental, or overly romantic. I think I’ll give this book a good, solid four out of five stars and recommend it to those historical fiction anglophiles who can’t get enough of the British royal family.
William Morrow – Harper Collins released “The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel” by Georgie Blalock on November 5, 2019. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Walmart (Kobo) US eBooks and audiobooks, the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), Wordery or The Book Depository (both with free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via Edelweiss.