Synopsis (From GoodReads):
In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.
One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….
I requested this book because I really enjoyed Daisy Goodwin's book The Fortune Hunter, about the Austrian queen, Sisi during the early part of the twentieth century. She is a master of royal historical fiction, and this book continues that strong tradition.
What I Liked:Mother/Daughter Relationship:
Victoria and her mother had a very strained relationship throughout her life. In many ways, there problems were similar to issues that many families face. When Victoria's father dies unexpectedly, her mother The Duchess Of Kent, seeks to fill the void with another man. Unfortunately, Sir John Conroy seems to have an ulterior motive. He wants to be in a position to manipulate Victoria when she ascends to the throne. While her mother is blind to such motives, Victoria sees right through him.
This conflict was the main motivation given in the book for Victoria seeking to become as independent as possible when she becomes queen. Take away the royal bits, and this could be the conflict of any family with money and the opportunists who seek to exploit them.
I love books about royals and political intrigue, and this novel did a great job of explaining all the different factions at play in the government and in the royal household.
There were also some memorable political characters in Victoria's life. Her uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, who pushed for her to marry his nephew Albert, was a savvy manipulator who also thought he could control Victoria through whoever would become her husband. There was also uncle Ernest, King of Hanover. There were numerous rumored plots that he had hatched to try to assassinate Victoria and put himself, or his son, on the British throne.
The Victorian age is most memorable for it's prudishness regarding sex. Yet the book shows how Victoria longed for male attention and seemed attracted to her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. There may have been some poetic license with this relationship, as I don't think there is any real evidence to support a love affair between them. But, it did provide this book with wonderful tension and intrigue. Perhaps this was an analogy for the entire Victorian age. Desire tightly controlled by propriety.
Relevance To Present Day:
There was the belief that Victoria couldn't be trusted to lead the nation because she was a woman. Even though a British monarch was largely symbolic, Victoria did have power to make lucrative appointments to those she favored. Her male relatives did not want to give that power away to a teenager. It seemed that numerous men wanted to be in charge of this gravy train.
This book resonates with me as I still think there are a lot of men in the world who have trouble letting women take the reigns of power (the recent U.S. election comes to mind).
What I didn't like:
If I had any complaint about this book it is that the book had a rather sudden ending. This book only covers the very first years of Victoria's reign. I wanted MORE!!!
I really hope that Daisy Goodwin chooses to continue with further books about Victoria. There is plenty of material from her life that I would love to hear about, particularly concerning her marriage to Prince Albert.
This book has a tie-in with a BBC series about Victoria that was co-written by Daisy Goodwin! The series is set to air in America on January 17th (I would think on PBS) and stars Jenna Coleman!!!
Release Date: November 22nd, 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: ARC E-book
Recommendation: A rich glimpse into young Queen Victoria in a glorious age. If you love Historical Fiction, you will enjoy this book.