The First Princess of Wales

Grade : C
Reviewed by Lynn Spencer
Grade : C
Sensuality : Subtle
Review Date : March 28, 2007
Published On : 2006

Historical romances have always seemed more incredibly romantic to me than any other subgenre because there is just something about a big meaty historical saga that fires my imagination. However, a good historical must have not only a well-told story but also must have characters who capture the reader’s heart. If one of these elements is lacking, the many pages of historical saga become interminable. Sadly, the characters in this novel just cannot carry the story and the result is a novel that is all too average.

The Princess of Wales referred to in the title is Joan of Kent, and the novel tells the story of the real-life romance between Joan and Edward Plantagenet, known as the Black Prince. As a teenager, Joan is sent for by Queen Philippa, and she reluctantly travels to Court. Joan’s father was executed years before and she blames King Edward III for his execution, so she vows revenge on the cruel king who took away her father. However, when Joan arrives, the forces of good and evil are not as clearcut as she would have imagined.

One of the first people Joan encounters at Court is Prince Edward and she is both unsettled and affected by him, something that, along with her growing friendship with Princess Isabella, causes her to be somewhat unsteady in her resolve. Still, even though she enjoys Isabella’s company and Edward’s attention, she will not allow herself to let go of her hatred of the royal family.

Neither Edward nor Joan has the power to choose their future spouses, but Edward is drawn to Joan and cannot stop himself from pursuing her. Joan likewise finds herself eager to spend time with Edward. At times their relationship seems like true love and then, as Joan remembers her desire to undo the Plantagenets, she tries to use Edward as a tool to that end. Unlike many modern historicals, this story covers a span of years as Joan finds herself forced to decide whether true love or revenge will fulfill her most.

Harper’s story is filled with wonderful historical detail that taught me a lot about the history of the time that I didn’t know before, details that made the Court of the Plantagenets and their wars in France feel very real. Unfortunately, while the stage was set almost perfectly, the characters failed to carry the story with distinction.

Edward is an interesting hero at times, but more often he comes across as overbearing to the point that I wondered why Joan felt such affection for him. As for Joan, while one can understand her bitterness over her father’s execution, she spends far too long nursing her grduge against the Plantagenets. This leads to many rounds of “I love you…no I want to utterly destroy your family…no, now I love you again.” That plot cycle causes Joan to come off as immature more than anything else, and it is hard not to tire of Joan and Edward’s antics well before the happy ending comes.

While this book is not repugnant, it is certainly an average read. The history is wonderful, but the romance just did not do it for me. As a lover of big historicals, I had high hopes for this one, but it sadly does not deliver.

Lynn Spencer

I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.
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