Book Review – The Irish Princess by Elizabeth Chadwick – historical fiction

Here’s the blurb;

“Her father’s only daughter.
Her country’s only hope.
Ireland, 1152

The King of Lenister, awaiting news of his newborn child, is disappointed to hear he has a daughter. Diarmait MacMurchada wanted another strapping son to shoulder a spear, wield a sword, and protect his kingdom. But the moment Diarmait holds tiny Aoife in his arms, he realised she would be his most precious treasure.

1166

Forced into exile Aoife and her family find themselves at the mercy of Henry II. Aoife – aware of her beauty but not its power – intrigues and beguiles Henry in equal measure. He agrees to help her father, an alliance that leads the MacMurchadas to the charistmatic Richard de Clare, a man dissatisfied with his lot and open to new horizons.

Diarmit promises Richard Aoife’s hand in marriage in return for his aid in Ireland, but Aoife has her own thoughts on the matter. She may be a prize, but she is not a pawn, and she will play the men at their own game. For herself, for her family, and for her country.

From the royal halls of scheming kings, to staunch Welsh border fortresses and the wild green kingdoms of Ireland, The Irish Princess is a sumptuous, journey of ambition and desire, love and loss, heartbreak and survival.”

The Irish Princess is a welcome return to the world of William the Marshall and Queen Alienor. Yes, they might not appear in the book for any great length of time, if at all, but the reader knows that they are ‘off’ in the background, living their own lives, while young Aoife is trying to do the same. (I am a huge fan of the William Marshall books – in many ways, he was one of the inspirations for Ealdorman Leofwine in the Earls of Mercia books that I write.)

The setting of Ireland for much of the book provides a new arena for readers of Elizabeth Chadwick, and it’s enjoyable. Events in Ireland can be complicated, and the author makes the reader aware of what’s happening without providing too much detail so that it never becomes too complicated.

Aoife is an intriguing character – fiercely proud of her heritage, she is also determined to hold onto her birthright, whatever it takes, and if I would have liked to know more about Aoife, and her Irish family by the end of the novel, then that is a good thing. I don’t know if this is a standalone novel, or if it will have a sequel, and if it doesn’t, I imagine many of my questions could be answered by forcing myself to reread The Scarlet Lion (if I must! – I can’t imagine it’ll be any form of hardship).

A thoroughly enjoyable read – it took me only three days to complete the book – and recommended for all fans of Elizabeth Chadwick, and those with an interest in the Empire of Henry II.

On a personal note – I do enjoy it when an author has the freedom to play around with some of their characters a little bit. This book is very much a prequel to The Scarlet Lion and I’m pleased that both the author and the publisher pursued this idea.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my review copy.

The Irish Princess is released on 12th September 2019 and is available from here:

Book Reviews from Netgalley – The First Queen of England by M J Porter – historical fiction

The First Queen of England has been available on Netgalley for the last month, and it’s garnered some fab reviews. I thought I’d bring them together here, both good and bad, as not all of them are over on Goodreads!

So, as with all book reviews, here’s the blurb;

“Before Anne Boleyn stole the heart of a king and demanded marriage, another woman strove to wed an already married king of England. This is the story of Elfrida, who would become the first crowned Queen of England.

England is united under Edgar, but twenty years of uncertainty and a dwindling royal nursery, have left the royal family vulnerable to extinction. Edgar, a king at only 15 years old, has an acknowledged daughter and wife, but the dying ealdorman, Æthelwald, has commanded his wife to seek out the king, now in his early twenties.

True to her husband’s wishes, Elfrida pursues the King, nervous of her husband’s intentions, but trusting them all the same. When the king tries to make her his concubine, Elfrida refuses and withdraws from the court, only to find herself dreaming of the King, desiring his touch and his presence.

When the King seeks her out once more, she willingly follows him back to his court and finds herself plunged into a world of politics and self-interest where her future happiness rests not only on the king loving her but also on the goodwill of others with much to play for at the King’s court.

Bringing alive the characters of tenth century England; its young king, Edgar; its Ealdormen, Byrhtnoth, Æthelwine, and Ælfhere; the great reforming religious figures of Archbishop Dunstan, Bishop Æthelwold and Oswald and the great women of the period, Lady Elfrida, Lady Æthelflæd and Lady Wulfthryn, The First Queen of England evokes tenth century England at its most enigmatic, shining a welcome light on England’s first crowned queen, a woman who would go on to accomplish much, but who must first steal the heart of an amorous King and earn her place at court, and overcome the obstacle of the outcome of not only the King’s second marriage, but also his first.

The Mercian Brexit can be read as an introduction to The First Queen of England – offering an account of the very early days of king Edgar’s reign form 955-957.

The First Queen of England Part 2 and Part 3 now available – telling the continuing story of Lady Elfrida in late tenth century England.

The King’s Mother is also now available, book 1 in a new trilogy continuing the story of Lady Elfrida.”

I’ll start with the 5/5 reviews, and there are four of them, which is fab!

“I received an ARC from NetGalley. I loved this book. Loved everything about it. Cant wait for part 2. I did get confused here and there because the character names are so similar but once I got that down, it was easy to follow. I love to read about history and a story where a woman is still valuable even after being married once before is even better. I will say I knew nothing about this King or Queen of England but i am glad to know them now.”

“This is the first time I have heard about Elfrida’s story so this as a pleasant surprise. This novel had romance, drama, and political intrigue! I’m definitely looking forward to purchasing the sequel!”

“Lady Elfrida has laid her husband to rest. He has died at a very young age. She also is widowed at a young age. Though they had been married for several years there are no living children. She is sent back to her fathers home. Just before her husband passed he had mentioned the King. She discovers that she was supposed to have married the king, but her husband was besotted with her and kept her for himself. It was a happy union. Now she discovers that the kings wife and small daughter are to go live in a nunnery. He will be without a wife. When she meets the king she is instantly beside herself with the strong attraction they feel for each other. She knows that to be Queen she will have to become his wife and not a concubine. With the help of strong ladies from the court, who will advise her on what needs to be done, she will do everything in her power to become the first Queen of England. Well written. Has actual persons in the storyline. Interesting!”

“A wonderful and very interesting story about King Edgar of England and his third wife, Elfrida. Highly enjoyable! I read it in one night. A must for Historical Fiction Fans! Will definitely be reading book two in this series. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. Thank you, Netgalley! All opinions are my own.”

And then the 4/5 and 3/5 reviews.

“Extremely interesting and factual. Great insight to the culture that spawned the Tudor dynasty..  Will look forward to reading more by this author and will recommend.”

“I was disappointed in this book as I had thought it to be historical fiction…unfortunately, there was a lack of history. I feel King Edgar of England and Elfrida both hved stories of their own, but this book only centers on their passion, even that not very well. The writing felt uninspired, also. Only my opinion.”

The First Queen of England is still available on Netgalley for a few more days for anyone who fancies delving into tenth century England (until 25th May 2019), and I would like to thank all reviewers for reading and offering their opinions! I appreciate each and every one of them, (and yes, that does mean the not too enthused ones as well – not everyone can like everything –  I certainly don’t.)

The First Queen of England is available on Amazon now (and also Audible), along with Book 2 and Book 3, and the first part of a second series, The King’s Mother. Books 2 and 3 of the second trilogy will be published soon.