April 2024
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Review: Palace Circle, Rebecca Dean

Summary from the publisher:

Palace intrigue, romance, and illicit affairs—Rebecca Dean has written a glorious novel that will sweep Philippa Gregory fans off their feet.

Delia Chandler, an eighteen-year-old Southern girl, marries Viscount Ivor Conisborough just before World War II, becoming part of the Windsor court. It’s every girl’s dream come true. But Delia is jolted from her pleasant life when she realizes, after the birth of her two daughters, that Ivor chose her only to bear an heir to his estate. Shortly thereafter, she begins an affair with her husband’s handsome, titled, and frequently scandalous best friend.

When Conisborough is appointed as an adviser to King Fuad of Egypt, Delia exchanges one palace circle for another, far different one. While she sees Egypt as a place of exile, her two daughters regard Egypt as their home. Only when war comes to Cairo—and Delia finally reveals the secret she has kept for so long—can she begin to heal the divisions separating her from those she loves.

Rebecca Dean’s irresistible combination of real events and masterful storytelling will keep readers fascinated until the very last page.

This book didn’t capture me, I’ll start by saying that.  The category of “historical fiction lite” applies perfectly here.  There are historical characters, but only on the sidelines.  The actual main characters fell flat for me, particularly Delia, who frustrated me with her frivolity and total inability to relate or talk to her daughters.  The novel’s viewpoint rotates from Delia to Petronella to Davina, but I had the distinct feeling that the girl who was narrating seemed different from the girl who had been described before or after.  Character changes over time, but it wasn’t convincing.  Neither were the love stories, even though in retrospect it’s as though the entire novel is a rotating battle through romance.  Obviously, I read romance, and shouldn’t have a problem with such a focus, but the book felt too shallow for me.  This is the lead-up to World War II, after all!  Maybe the high society didn’t feel it but everyone else did.  The only concession to the times is one of the sisters’ charity work.  Even the move to Egypt isn’t explored the way it might have been and feels very much like the British court all over again rather than a different culture.  We are thrown a few bones in the way of revolution, but not many details or actions take place.

In the end, reading this book was little like watching a soap opera.  The characters are caricatures, the situations are ridiculous, and none of it seems to reflect on real life events in anything but a shallow way.  Moreover, literally everyone is having an affair, which may have been the case but was still repugnant to me.  The book is enjoyable in a light, frothy way that doesn’t appeal to me.  Had I approached it as a light read, in the vein of one of my romances, I may have been able to get more into it, but I tend to think of historical fiction as deeper, even when it focuses on a royal court.  This was not, and it disappointed me.

Check out Palace Circle on Amazon.


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