Queen of Bedlam by Laura Purcell
PDF ARC, 432 pages
Myrmidon Books Ltd
June 10, 2014 (UK Release)
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Received from publisher for review as part of HFVBT tour
“London 1788. The calm order of Queen Charlotte’s court is shattered by screams. The King of England is going mad. Left alone with thirteen children and with the country at war, Charlotte has to fight to hold her husband’s throne. It is a time of unrest and revolutions but most of all Charlotte fears the King himself, someone she can no longer love or trust. She has lost her marriage to madness and there is nothing she can do except continue to do her royal duty.
Her six daughters are desperate to escape their palace asylum. Their only chance lies in a good marriage, but no prince wants the daughter of a madman. They are forced to take love wherever they can find it, with devastating consequences.
The moving true story of George III’s madness and the women whose lives it destroyed.”
The period of English history that I am least with is the Regency period and all of the King Georges. I think part of my aversion is that the majority of books that I see set during this period are light, fluffy romances – of which I have fairly little use. I will admit it was primarily the title that drew me in to this novel. I have always had some amount of intrigue about the “madness of King George” and also find stories about those who tend to be on the periphery fascinating. While George III and George IV are the primary male figures in this novel, the daughters/sisters/wives receive quite the novel treatment. This is certainly not a light, fluffy romance (although there are a few romantic scenes).
Despite the rather large cast of characters, the author does a fantastic job of creating each person in their own right. In a short span of pages I could easily tell Amelia apart from Sophia and Royal (and the same goes for the men as well, although they are featured on fewer pages). It is very easy for an author to focus on just one or two characters while the rest are introduced for a few sentences and then disappear to just show up in cursory scenes – not so here. I feel that I truly got to know each of them. I think that Sophia was my favorite character – my heart just broke for her.
Another strength in this novel was how the author sets the events in England within the context of events that are occurring in other parts of the world (particularly America, France, and some of the states and duchies that would become Germany). The American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the conquest of Napoleon all occurred during the reign of George III and are all events I was familiar with and helped me to place the events within the context of the greater world. That is always an element that I look for in novels.
Early on in my reading, the constant use of the name, Royal, for Princess Charlotte, daughter of George III, grated on my nerves. I didn’t realize at that time that her title was Princess Royal as the oldest daughter to the King. I just found it to be quite annoying to have to hear “Royal” all the time when the sound just didn’t fit in the sentence. I understand that this was done to avoid confusion with her mother, Queen Charlotte. It was refreshing that upon leaving England Royal actually expressed disdain over not being called by her given name because of her mother being of the same name. I thought this might have been a breakthrough moment and that we would then see her being called Charlotte because they were no longer in the same scenes – but alas that was but a dream.
Of note – the cover is beautiful! It is one of my recent favorites. I have no idea how accurate it is to the time period (I’m never very good at determining those things), but it is certainly eye catching!
I look forward to more novels by this author and really enjoyed her writing.
This is author Laura Purcell’s debut novel (expect to see more novels of the Hanoverian women in the future). You can visit Laura’s website for additional information about the book.
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