The Winter Prince
In The Winter Prince, Cheryl Sawyer turns her research and writing skills to the tumultous years of the English Civil War. Her story focuses on Mary Villiers, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox, and Prince Rupert of Bohemia (also known as Rupert of the Rhine). As Charles I’s ward and nephew, both Mary and Rupert were close to the Stuart family. Mary was very close to the Queen and trusted within the most intimate Court circles. Rupert, on the other hand, grew up in exile, but served as one of Charles I’s most esteemed commanders during the war.
Though not strictly a romance, this tale does have some romantic elements to it. Mary’s marriage and her relationship with her husband James Stuart play an important role in the book, as does Prince Rupert’s deep attraction to Mary. In their time, Mary and Rupert were both intelligent and almost larger-than-life, something Sawyer captures very well here. The author’s writing flows very smoothly and she does a wonderful job of giving readers a vision of what the historical persons in this book were like and how their world worked.
Just as the Civil War that splits England can have no easy resolution, neither can the tangled web of Mary’s relationships with James Stuart and Rupert. All three are likable characters and while reading this book, I could not help but wish for all to find happiness. Charles I’s Court in exile at Oxford comes vividly to life in this novel and whether at Court or on the battlefield, so, too, do the main characters. Though I started the book already knowing the outcome of the war, I still could not help feeling the suspense of the characters as they watched events unfold around them.
Sawyer’s descriptions of the English Civil War and the lives of those caught within it make for addictive reading. As a reader, I would have appreciated more historical information or an author’s note about the various battles as I sometimes had trouble keeping the events straight. That, though, was a minor quibble since I enjoyed the story so much that I was able to move past any confusion about the historical background. Still, those completely unfamiliar with the war may want to read one of many articles about it that can be found on the Internet (we don’t have one per se on the war in our Historical Cheat Sheet…but would welcome the addition!).
With thrilling, well-drawn historical characters and a vivid evocation of events, The Winter Prince is an unforgettable read. Those who like their historical fiction touched with romance and deep emotion will want to give this one a try. Cheryl Sawyer brings the court of Charles I to life and it is impossible not to feel deeply the turns of bravado, anxiety, desperation and love running through the lives of her characters.