Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

Oooh, new historical fiction! This one about Queen Victoria! You already know I’m pretty much going to eat this up. Especially when I previously enjoyed other books by this author.

Victoria front cover (St. Martin's Press)

Victoria front cover (St. Martin’s Press)

THE PLOT: The story covers a relatively short period in Victoria’s life: from right before her ascension to the throne up to her engagement to Prince Albert. Most of the plot centers around Victoria’s fascination with her much older Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne; but there are also the twists and turns of people trying to manipulate the sheltered teenage queen.

There’s her mother’s companion, John Conroy, who was sorry that Victoria didn’t become queen before her 18th birthday and therefore require a regency. (Which, of course would have been run by her mother and him…so, mostly him.) Her paternal uncle, the Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover, is annoyed that England didn’t have laws preventing a female from inheriting the throne, which would have made him King of England. Her maternal uncle, the King of Belgium, is adamant that Victoria should marry his nephew Albert so she is “guided” by the Coburgs.

Everyone agrees that she must marry quickly so there’s a steadying male influence on the giddy young girl. The one thing they all agree on is that the husband cannot be Lord Melbourne, no matter how much Victoria might wish it.

MY TWO CENTS: I didn’t realize that Daisy Goodwin had written the Masterpiece drama coming to PBS, starring Jenna Coleman and Rufus Sewell. This book is kind of the novelization of that. I was already looking forward to it, so reading this just helped build more excitement.

This book is a pretty quick read. It’s broken into four parts, and the chapters within each part are fairly short. It’s easy to pick up and put down, although I mostly just wanted to keep reading once I was in it.

I felt very connected to the character of Victoria. She seemed very authentic to me, both as an 18-year-old girl, and a very sheltered individual who is suddenly queen. Her mother and Conroy certainly didn’t do her any favors by keeping her so isolated. How could she learn to relate to people when she wasn’t allowed? How could she learn to be a good queen in a vacuum? And some of her early major missteps reflect that.

I really enjoyed this book…right up until Albert’s entrance, which was about 75% of the way through. The rest of the book focused on the not-quite-a-romance between Victoria and her Lord M. People keep trying to push Albert at her (in his absence), and she wants nothing to do with that path. She didn’t like Albert the last time she saw him, and the more people push, the less she’s interested.

Then, right after Lord M breaks it to her that he could never be her husband, Albert arrives. Victoria goes from “I want nothing to do with him” to “maybe I want to impress him” to “Okay, I’ll marry him” in way too short a time. Unfortunately, the rush to engagement does make her seem fickle or giddy. I guess I would have preferred for Albert to show up sooner in the narrative so they could work out all their awkwardness more slowly. Or maybe the end of the book just needed to be longer. I felt that the coverage of the Victoria/Lord M story was appropriate and built nicely throughout the book, while the Albert-focused chapters were rushed. Victoria and Albert’s story was supposedly a great love story, but you don’t get that feeling here. You feel that she settled, and so did he. (Maybe it won’t seem that way in the miniseries? I hope not.)

COVER NOTES: The cover is reminiscent of Goodwin’s book The American Heiress. Simple but elegant. I wonder if that is Jenna Coleman as Victoria, and the rooms are from sets used in the production.

BOTTOM LINE: An enjoyable, quick, easy read. A little too rushed at the end for my taste. Looking forward to checking out the Masterpiece Presentation on PBS!

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available November 22, 2016, in hardcover and eformats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley and Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

This is the first book I’ve read by author Daisy Goodwin. I actually own The American Heiress, but haven’t gotten to it yet.

The Fortune Hunter Front Cover (St. Martin's Press)

The Fortune Hunter Front Cover (St. Martin’s Press)

THE PLOT: Charlotte Baird is an heiress in late 19th-century England. Her half-brother and his soon-to-be wife are her guardians, and they’re jealous of her fortune (which belonged to her mother not the father she shared with her brother). Charlotte is a fairly independent woman of the times, a budding photographer who doesn’t want to marry just anyone after her fortune. She meets Bay Middleton, one of her brother’s friends and an officer, and falls in love with him. Unfortunately, Bay is not a great guy. The story starts off with his married mistress retiring to the country to bear their child, then tries to soften him a bit with his honest attraction to Charlotte. Despite her family’s warnings, Charlotte becomes unofficially engaged to Bay. But then he ends up being hunting pilot for Empress Elisabeth (“Sisi”) of Austria, and falls into instant, all-consuming lust with her. Their affair plays out against a backdrop of fox hunts, pouting nobility, and an important horse race.

MY TWO CENTS: The characters are wonderfully written. You can very easily see Charlotte’s relatives, Sissy’s entourage, and “Chicken” Hartopp. The reader is very easily drawn into the story, but I’m not sure it delivers in the end. Will Charlotte forgive Bay? Will she find someone better? Is Bay really any better than a fortune Hunter? Will he choose to remain the empress’s lapdog? Will he win the big race? I just wasn’t 100% on board with Charlotte’s choices and thought she deserved better than her eventual fate.

BOTTOM LINE: An easy, engaging read that keeps you thinking for a while after you finish it. Many of the characters were based on real people, but it reads like 100% fiction, which is fine.

TEACUP RATING: Between three-and-a-half and four out of five teacups. I’m not completely fulfilled by it, but I like Daisy Goodwin’s writing style, and I AM eager to go on to The American Heiress now.

ON SALE DATE: The Fortune Hunter will be released in hardcover and ebook formats on July 29, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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