|Cavalier Queen by Fiona Mountain|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: A sweeping and detailed account of the arranged marriage between Princess Henrietta of France and Charles I. There are three in this marriage right from the start and the untenable situation eventually results in drastic consequences.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: September 2011|
|Publisher: Preface Publishing|
|External links: Author's website|
Mountain starts by giving her readers a one-page 'ending' as far as Henrietta's life is concerned even although she was not ready to die. Words such as threat, scandal, whore and bastards leap off the page and give us a colourful taster of what's to come as Mountain fills in considerable detail.
We sweep back in time to a young Henrietta. Living the spoilt and pampered life of a pretty, little princess whom everyone (even her dog) loves and adores. She spends delightfully carefree days singing and dancing and playing with her little dog. But the subject of marriage is on the horizon. She's fourteen after all. Time to put away those childish things. Who has her family decided will be her future husband? The young princess has no say in the matter but hopes he will be just a little handsome and be gentle with her. It's not only a marriage of two individuals (that's almost inconsequential) it's a marriage of two nations - with strategy and long-term thinking in mind. In short, the French Royal Family want to do everything to appease other countries and hopefully keep war at bay.
Prince Charles is the front runner. He was reputed to be one of the finest princes in all of Europe. The young princes comes across as romantic, very romantic, as far as her future as a married woman is concerned and also a little frivolous. Pretty dresses, hair ribbons etc take up quite a bit of her waking hours. What to wear. Who to impress. But she's still a teenager, after all.
Early on in the novel, religion pops up. Henrietta touched the smooth rosary beads at her waist ... It's a very thorny issue indeed and is a running thread throughout. The young prince from England, due to royal protocol, has sent ahead a small organizing party to France to make all the necessary arrangement for the forthcoming wedding. And a young man called Harry who speaks impeccable French, catches Henrietta's eye - and the rest, they say, is history. There is a definite 'spark' between them even although Harry behaves as expected. He's a commoner. But the die is cast ... Henrietta secretly hopes that this Charles person will be as nice, as charming, as funny, as debonair and as handsome as Harry. Tough call.
There is an innocent encounter between Harry and Henrietta early on in the book which quickly turns into the princess showing her feelings towards Harry. Mountain tells a fine story. Some historical novels can be too full of facts and figures which can drag down the narrative. Not so here. Mountain has, in my opinion, got the balance just right. By the very first chapter I had become totally and utterly involved in Henrietta and what her future held. I also was entranced by the rather enigmatic Harry. These two characters fairly sizzled on the page.
We follow Henrietta as she makes the sea journey to her new home in England. She has many conflicting emotions to contend with. Sorrow at having to leave her beloved family and her beloved France, trepidation and also a fair degree of excitement. Will the English like her? Will she be a good wife and mother?
We follow her adventurous, dangerous, sad and sensual life over the next couple of decades. At times Henrietta shows some backbone when it is much needed. But what of her adorable Henry? Well, his life is full of ups and downs too. A wonderfully extravagant and engrossing saga told in an engaging and effective style. Highly recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If this book period appeals then you might like to try Corsair by Tim Severin.
You can read more book reviews or buy Cavalier Queen by Fiona Mountain at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Cavalier Queen by Fiona Mountain at Amazon.com.
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