Hello Sunshines, I hope you are all safe and well?! I the pleasure to be sharing my review of this fascinating book with you all; The Queen Secret by Karen Harper. So settle in, grab that cupp and I hope you enjoy it.
The Queen’s Secret (A Novel of England’s World War II Queen) by Karen Harper
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers / William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 28th May 2020
If you love Jennifer Robson or The Crown you will love New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper’s novel about Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.
1939. As the wife of the King George VI and the mother of the future queen, Elizabeth—“the queen mother”—shows a warm, smiling face to the world. But it’s no surprise that Hitler himself calls her the “Most Dangerous Woman in Europe.” For behind that soft voice and kindly demeanor is a will of steel.
Two years earlier, George was thrust onto the throne when his brother Edward abdicated, determined to marry his divorced, American mistress Mrs. Simpson. Vowing to do whatever it takes to make her husband’s reign a success, Elizabeth endears herself to the British people, and prevents the former king and his brazen bride from ever again setting foot in Buckingham Palace.
Elizabeth holds many powerful cards, she’s also hiding damaging secrets about her past and her provenance that could prove to be her undoing.
In this riveting novel of royal secrets and intrigue, Karen Harper lifts the veil on one of the world’s most fascinating families, and how its “secret weapon” of a matriarch maneuvered her way through one of the most dangerous chapters of the century.
Praise for Karen Harper
“If you thought the Queen Mum was a benign, plump, cheery old lady, think again. In Karen Harper’s novel she is tough, determined, and fabulously gossipy. Reading this novel is like sitting next to an indiscreet royal insider at a private dinner.” (Gill Paul, bestselling author of The Lost Daughter)
“Harper’s enchanting latest (after American Duchess) explores the private life of Queen Elizabeth, formerly Elizabeth Bowes Lyon…Harper’s evocative prose and able plotting make each twist and turn believable. This displays Harper’s mastery at fictional profiles of prominent 20th-century women.” (Publishers Weekly)
“…readers will appreciate the Queen Mother’s story as the woman behind the crown is given a chance to shine on her own with all her faults and glory.” (Booklist)
Praise for American Duchess: “Harper’s latest immerses readers in British high society, with intrigue and gossip around every corner…this tender, well researched novel lets readers see the economic, social, and political highlights of the nineteenth-century Gilded Age brought to life through Consuelo Vanderbilt’s eyes.” (Booklist)
Praise for American Duchess: “This absorbing and evocative tale is an excellent reminder of what women have long sacrificed over the centuries for family honor and duty, and how they navigated their circumstances and influence to change the world for the better.” (Heather Webb, international bestselling author of Last Christmas in Paris)
Praise for The It Girls: “The It Girls is a glorious romp through the lives and loves of the scintillating Sutherland sisters…. Readers who enjoy historical fiction are in for a treat!” (Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of The Cottingley Secret and The Girl Who Came Home)
Praise for The Royal Nanny: “The Royal Nanny is a gem, revealing that those forgotten in history are often the true treasures.”(Erika Robuck, national bestselling author of Hemingway’s Girl)
“The Windsors continue to fascinate as we watch a new generation grow up. Harper’s novel draws attention to the heroism and strength of the royal family during a trying time in history. A strong selection for those interested in a more personal imagining of royal life at that time.” (Library Journal)
I was instantly fascinated by this, I was intrigued by the back blurb and was hooked by the story completely which is a little surprising seeing as – and I will be totally honest here – and say I am not the biggest royalist, I admire certain members and I love reading about historical royals. I must be one of the only people in the world who didn’t sit down to watch ‘that’ royal wedding (come on, you all know which one I am talking about) and yet saying that, there is something about the 30’s/40’s generation that fascinates me. Maybe it is the whole King abdicating to live the with the woman he loves or maybe I’ve watched The King’s Speech far too many times, whatever I do like reading stories from this era and getting a different perspective and view on the stories that we all know and this one is great.
The Queens Secret did surprise me a lot, from what I have read about the Queen’s Mother, I always saw her as a rather stuck in her ways yet feisty woman who liked a bit of a tipple, and maybe even a little manipulative towards Bertie. From what I have read about her, she did have a tendency to as the back blurb says; ‘manoeuvre’ her husband around, but seeing as her husband had just become King – a role he was never destined for, she maybe had to manoeuvre him around to get the monarchy moving again, who knows after all the first in line to the throne; an older brother; Edward did abdicate leaving the country on the cusp of war and scandal in his wake – I think we all know what happened there don’t we? A true love story if ever there was one!
I grew up with stories from my late grandmother who always thought Elizabeth; the Queen Mother was the backbone, how she was the real thinker of the Royal family, that she was highly influential, then there is the kind and caring side; her visiting the people of London who were being blitzed day after day, these people had lost everything. I got all of that from this book, but I also got an intelligent, cunning, calculating, sobering and an actually a sad, lonely and at the time a miserable woman. And I do think that my grandmother assumptions are somewhat carried into this book, which is a little spooky.
I really enjoyed this, I liked the story some of which I already knew from other sources but there many aspects that were relatively new to me. The characters are engaging, likeable and tend to stick more or less to how we know them to have been. The writing is fluid and steady, even though I did feel at times the tone was a little repetitive, there are parts that do tend to repeat on itself, for example, it is really pushed at the reader just how miserable her life was and that of her past which had a hand in creating the woman she became. I totally get that the author wants to bring across as much of the personality of the woman behind the Queen Mother we know, but as a reader who just wants to settle down and read a what is essentially a good book, I would rather make my own assertions of the characters – again just my honest opinion, other readers may see it differently.
Most of parts of the story I had known or heard already, which is inevitable being British as all WW2 and Royal history is taught from a young age in one way or another, that is one thing we Brit’s are pretty good at we do tend to keep our pasts alive by re-telling stories – unless that is just my family? Yet there were genuine surprises, such as I didn’t really know just how much of an influence Elizabeth had and how other dignitaries saw or even that she had this famous reputation, I thought that was fascinating.
I loved the small details, things that we Brits have knows since childhood, things that we take for granted but little snippets of history that maybe aren’t as widely know around the world as they are here; such as how Londoner’s took refuge in the subways during the Blitz, at one time there were huge families, neighbours friends all living down there, as soon as the siren sounded that’s where Londoners went and it was the same in other parts of the country too. I loved that detail and it is something that really fascinates me, the real side to the war, real peoples tales. Yet, again it makes me think of my own family history of how our local chippy was bombed and how my grandmother used to take the chickens and the dogs into the Anderson shelter, while her mother refused to leave the house. And in certain places in the country people can still visit those old underground bunkers that served as refuges for those being driven from their homes by doodle-bugs and the Blitz. That side to the story really spoke to me, it really makes the reader picture just what Britain was like during the war.
Overall this is an intriguing story, full of historical fact, If you love anything to do with the Royal family and WW2 then this is a must-read.
This was a complimentary copy via the publisher, which I voluntarily reviewed. Thank you, Bianca, at Harper Collins / William Marrow.
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author KAREN HARPER is a former Ohio State University instructor and high school English teacher. Published since 1982, she writes contemporary suspense and historical novels about real British women. Two of her recent Tudor-era books were bestsellers in the UK and Russia. Harper won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for Dark Angel, and her novel Shattered Secrets was judged one of the best books of the year by Suspense Magazine.