Book Review for “In the Shadow of a Queen” by Heather B. Moore.
Summary: “Princess Louise’s life is upended after her father’s untimely death. Captive to the queen’s overwhelming mourning, Louise is forbidden to leave her mother’s tight circle of control and is eventually relegated to the position of personal secretary to her mother—the same position each of her sisters held until they were married. Already an accomplished painter, Louise risks the queen’s wrath by exploring the art of sculpting, an activity viewed as unbefitting a woman. When Louise involves herself in the day’s political matters, including championing the career of a female doctor and communicating with suffragettes, the queen lays down the law to stop her and devotes her full energy to finding an acceptable match for her defiant daughter. Louise is considered the most beautiful and talented daughter of Queen Victoria, but finding a match for the princess is no easy feat. Protocols are broken, and Louise exerts her own will as she tries to find an open-minded husband who will support her free spirit.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Women, Fiction; Settings: Historical – Victorian; UK – England, Scotland, Wales; Other Categories: Novel, Biographical.
First of all, my apologies to the publishers for putting up this review after the publication date. I didn’t realize when I accepted the ARC that I would get bogged down with a very long novel as well as another book to finish before the end of September, when I went abroad on vacation! But as they say, better late than never, right? So, on with the review!
As my regular readers already know, I’m a sucker for a good women’s biographical, historical fiction novel, especially ones about people I know little to nothing about. Therefore, this checked all the boxes for me, especially since I had no idea who Princess Louise was before I started reading this book. Yes, I knew that Queen Victoria had many children, and I knew about a few of them, mostly from the TV series, but Louise wasn’t a main focus there. So, to find out that she had to become her mother’s assistant at such a young age – mostly due to the marrying off of her elder sisters – was news to me. Then, to find out that she married a “commoner,” albeit a titled one, was also news to me. However, the thing that surprised me the most, and what immediately piqued my interest, was her artistic ability and her insistence on pursuing her talent, despite her mother’s resistance.
Yes, here was a woman who knew her own mind, and although shackled by tradition and the seclusion which was required by her elevated status, she still found a way to be an artist, mostly by sheer tenacity. Knowing that the Queen was… well… shall we say, difficult regarding what her children should and should not do, this was quite a feat. It occurred to me, then, that Louise and her mother were pretty much two peas in a pod, and that they got along so well was close to miraculous. Two strong-headed women could have led to a far more tumultuous relationship, but I’m guessing that Louise figured out early on how to manipulate her mother, while seeming to defer to her at the same time. That is something I really admired about Louise from the very beginning of this book.
Moore has certainly done her research here, which will become completely obvious when you get to 90% of the book and the story ends, leaving 10% for the references and author’s notes. This came through in the story telling, which, while ringing absolutely true, also had a very comfortable style, that helped us understand Louise beneath all the facts. I appreciated how Moore tried to humanize Louise and make her into a real person, and not some untouchable royal personage. Seeing as Louise never became a monarch herself, as did a few of her older siblings, bringing that approachability to her was essential. In this, I believe that Moore succeeded. Because of Louise’s the artistic nature, Moore was also able to add more poetic passages to the work, making the personal aspects more vibrant, while not losing site of the facts and history.
That said, while I did like Louise, even admire her for many reasons, I found the parts dedicated to finding her a suitable husband to be a bit on the tedious side. Certainly, Louise also must have felt that way herself, and Moore shows how frustrated Louise was with the process. Even so, I was hoping to hear more about her artistic endeavors, which might have balanced out all the husband hunting, and the eventual romantic connections with the man she married. All told, I enjoyed this book very much, and while I didn’t fall in love Louise, she seemed a very loveable person. This is a very good example of women’s, historical, biographical, fiction, and I am recommending it warmly to lovers of this genre, by giving it a well-deserved four out of five stars.
Shadow Mountain Publishing released “In the Shadow of a Queen” by Heather B. Moore on October 4, 2022. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Blackwell’s, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks), Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the Callie Hansen and the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel via NetGalley.