Monday, June 23, 2008

The First Princess of Wales - Karen Harper

I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of this book from the author. I've been very curious about the Fair Maid of Kent after reading bits about her in other books and was quite happy to find a book where she is the main character.

The daughter of a disgraced earl, she matched wits with a prince.

It is the fourteenth century, the height of the Medieval Age, and at the court of King Edward III of England, chivalry is loudly praised while treachery runs rampant. When the lovely and high-spirited Joan of Kent is sent to this politically charged court, she is woefully unprepared for the underhanded maneuverings of her peers.

Determined to increase the breadth of his rule, the king will use any means necessary to gain control of France—including manipulating his own son, Edward, Prince of Wales. Joan plots to become involved with the prince to scandalize the royal family, for she has learned they engineered her father's downfall and death. But what begins as a calculated strategy soon—to Joan's surprise—grows into love. When Joan learns that Edward returns her feelings, she is soon fighting her own, for how can she love the man that ruined her family? And, if she does, what will be the cost?

It tells the story of Joan, starting as a young girl preparing to go to court, till her marriage to Edward, the Black Prince at 33 and covering her two previous marriages.

I found this Joan an interesting character even if a bit too lively at times, too self assured for someone so young. As soon as she reaches Kind Edward II's court she becomes a favourite with Princess Isabella and Queen Philippa and she immediately catches the eye of Edward, The Black Prince. Joan's mother tells her on her deathbed that the king is responsible for the death of her father and Joan decides then and there that she will have her revenge.

Despite that her attraction to the Prince grows and soon they are being noticed by others which leads the Queen to arrange a marriage for Joan. First she is betrothed to Thomas Holland. As that doesn’t seems to stop her and the prince the Queen in desperation marries her to another man. That will make for an interesting tangle and the Pope must be consulted to decide to which of them is she really married. We follow Joan's marriage to Thomas Holland and exile in France and her subsequent reunion with Edward that leads to their marriage after her husband dies.

I did like reading the story but I have to confess that I regretted that some lack of historical detail to really make me feel like I was visiting the medieval world. I wanted to know more of Joan besides her attraction to Edward. I never thought Joan's first marriage to be of royal initiative but I'm sure things could have happened as described. The age of the characters also seems a bit off in the beginning but as they grow up it it's not noticeable anymore. It reads very well as a romantic story even if Edward is at times a bit too aggressive in his pursuit of Joan, there's a lot of melodrama going on with these two before they reach their happy ending.

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