Prince of Hearts
While I’m not a complete stickler for historical accuracy, I prefer that real historical figures, when present in a novel, are presented in an historically accurate fashion. For example, I wouldn’t expect Queen Elizabeth I to get married if her character were included in a story. After the death of King Henry VII in 1509, he was succeeded not by his first son Arthur, whom had already died, but by Henry VIII, a younger son. Since the setting of this book is during that time period, and Arthur is on the throne, I knew I was going to have a problem with the historical facts.
Edmund, Duke of Somerset and brother to King Arthur, is 9 years old when he first meets Cecilia Coleville. Edmund dismisses his attendants to take a walk and checks out the Bloody Tower of London to find out if it actually bleeds. Cecilia is at Court for the first time and not having a good time. However, her initial meeting with Edmund makes her time at Court memorable. The two do not see each other for another eight years. A chance meeting draws them together again, and Cecilia recognizes Edmund as the boy she had met. (This struck me as odd since I highly doubt I could recognize someone years later that I met once when I was nine years old.) They spend a few hours together in the company of Cecilia’s brother, John and sister, Beatrice. Edmund and Cecelia exchange drawings of each other as depicted by Cecilia’s brother John. Cecelia remains unaware that Edmund is brother to the king.
Fast forward yet a few more years and Cecilia is attending Queen Catherine (of Aragon) at the Court of King Arthur. When she runs into Edmund again, she finally discovers his identity. Edmund is glad to see Cecilia, but he is not free to marry because of a promise me made to his dying father, Henry VII. Edmund has promised never to betray his brother the king; d were he not to make a political alliance with his marriage, he would surely do so. Edmund also has another important duty he must carry out for his king, and Cecilia inadvertently knows his secret.
Because of the nature of the Court and the times, many political maneuverings are involved in the story, and Ceci and Edmund must watch every word and gesture they make. The backstabbing and machinations at Court were well described. In the middle of all this intrigue, Ceci and Edmund spend most of their time pining away for each other because of their unfulfilled desires.
Ceci is well educated and a likable character. Edmund is not the rake that he is rumored to be, and he has some interesting servants. Unfortunately, the attention given to the secondary plots and all their underlying details, though interesting, left the main characters disconnected from the reader and somewhat bland. Had this been a longer book, perhaps that would have been less of a problem, but the Harlequin Historicals framework requires everything in 300 pages.
Edmund and Ceci’s dilemma is rather neatly and unrealistically resolved at the end, with the one-dimensional and obvious villain of the story vanquished. My serious problem with the story involved the basic fact that Arthur, Henry’s brother, was never king of England. Arthur was first married to Catherine of Aragon before Henry married her after Arthur’s death, but they never had children, as is portrayed in the story.
Because my connection to the characters was missing, and because of the serious historical problems in this novel, it ended up as merely an average read. Had this book been marked as an alternative historical time line, it might have helped me overcome that particular hurdle, unfortunately that would not have helped the lack of character development. There is nothing terribly wrong here for a debut novel, but neither does it stand out in my mind.
I originally reviewed this with a grade of C-. Because many of our readers informed me that this book is meant to present an alternative view of history, I thought about that in terms of whether it would change the grade. It does – albeit very slightly. I hope I made the point in my review that I found too great a focus on secondary sub-plots and their details, resulting in a lack of character development. Because of this lack, I was unable to connect to the characters, and, in a love story, that’s critical.