June 2024
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The First Princess of Wales, Karen Harper

I think that this was largely a mediocre book, to start off with, mostly due to the fact that it was a romance novel in unlikely historical trappings.
Ostensibly, this novel is about Joan, the “Fair Maid of Kent”, who we all know from the history and the title of the novel is going to marry Edward the Black Prince (of Wales). I was hoping for a more detailed fictional take on her life. Instead, I got a romance novel. I did expect some romance, because it is obviously about how she and Edward fall in love in part, but Joan’s life had a lot going on otherwise and I felt that was de-emphasized in favor of the fact that she is constantly pining for Edward.

Okay, historical inaccuracies: namely, neither Joan nor Edward were known by their nicknames during their lifetime, and anyone who has done any research will notice that there is no contemporary record of their names. Moreover, the chronology of Joan’s life is inaccurate. Some unlikely elements were added in favor of the plot, but it’s mostly the blatant inaccuracies, which are so frequently used.

Secondly, this is basically a romance novel. When Joan’s life doesn’t have much to do with Edward, it is skipped over, except when one particular exciting event happens. And (spoilers here) the novel ends with the marriage of Joan and Edward. What about afterwards? I would have been far more interested to learn how Joan thought while Edward was off winning victories and how she acted with her children and what happened after Edward died. I thought the novel would be more of a fictionalized biography, because that’s how it comes off by reading the back. It isn’t, it’s just a romance novel.

In the end, I would call this mediocre, and probably recommend it to someone who reads romance novels, not historical fiction. It doesn’t do badly as a romance, but it pretends to be something that it isn’t.


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