Royal Roses 1
Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese
This is a difficult review to write because I had such high hopes for Queen From The North.
An alternate UK history involving the Royal family (but not as we know it), closely tied to the War of the Roses, with Yorkists and Lancastrians railed against one another, with some witchy magic stuff thrown in.
YES, I wanted to read that. See what the authors did with it and where they would take it.
I finished the book, which in itself says a great deal, but I was so bitterly disappointed. I should have listened to my instincts; any book that requires the author to explain the foundations of the plot BEFORE you start to read, is already problematic.
AMELIA: In general, I liked her, but wanted her to show some grit. In a world that hates women, how did she manage to study a science degree to a level good enough to apply for a PhD? The environment in which she studied must have been rife with male privilege, insidious and overt sexism, bullying, and anti-Yorkist sentiments. She MUST have been strong enough to stand up to all that, yet she is rather spineless when it comes to Arthur. There are moments that made me cheer; when she stood her ground against Slingsby, for example, and the occasions when she did call Arthur out on his terrible silences and disappearances. The sad thing, however, is that she spends far too much time being weak-willed, and not thinking about her future role as his wife. It is a nonsense to think, as the daughter of and Earl, she would have to have the notion of supporting charities pointed out to her. She comes across as naïve and childish at different times, yet occasionally we have flashes of maturity and insight. Sadly, it is down to the writing that she is painted so feebly.
ARTHUR: I flipped back and forth with Arthur; like – dislike – meh! I did not buy the idea that having met Amelia (whom he did NOT know despite being good friends with her older brother), he was able within an extremely short space of time to think about a ‘marriage of convenience’. He is meant to be about 40 years old, yet we know almost nothing about what he does within his role as Prince of Wales. His character is opaque and unclear. I could not accept the King and Queen singling Amelia out in public BEFORE meeting her in private. It’s just not done and for good reasons, which common-sense should have told both authors. Arthur’s constant disappearances and silences were annoying; his excuses were shameless and shoddy. Could neither of the writers come up with something better?
The relationship between Arthur and Amelia had shades of a badly contrived, alternate version of the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, but with a happy ending.
Helen, the Queer Peer plays the alternate role of Camilla but, while on one hand it’s great that she is a gay character, on the other it is a lazy plot device with no conflict. The concept of her as Arthur’s mistress, and the hurtful feelings that such a situation would inflict, are swept away by the revelation of Helen’s sexuality. It felt like a wasted opportunity. If it was a heterosexual or bisexual woman, it would have forced a discussion on matters of fidelity between them; to examine the state and potential of their relationship before and after any wedding.
IF Arthur and Amelia had spent any significant time together alone, getting to know one another, not at dinner parties and with other people, then this tale would be so much more believable. It would have so much more depth.
WHAT I LIKED:
- The characters, on the whole.
- Alternate England
- The whole premise of the War of the Roses still greatly impacting England and English politics, culture, and social divide.
- The notion that witchcraft and magic was still a ‘thing’ and permitted.
- The Ravens – Very Important Birds
- The inclusion of different gender and sexual orientation: George a witch and genderqueer; Helen the ‘Queer Peer’ who marries her love; Edward, Amelia’s gay Personal Protection Officer.
- Strangers to lovers
WHAT WAS NOT GOOD:
‘a lightning rod for hate the southerners have for the north’
- If the War of the Roses is the foundation for a political and social divide, then the authors’ use of the north/south social, cultural, political division, and hatred as a device makes no sense. There is no explanation. None.
- Each house had estates across England (see map right). If this is the foundation, it does not explain the appalling treatment of the House of York which on this map covers large areas of England. (*See ‘what was missing’ below)
- If Amelia is so rooted and loyal to her York home why is she at a London university and why is she applying to American universities for her post-graduate degree? The ruthless treatment of her home does not appear to have overly bothered her previously, at least not enough to spur her into action.
- ‘could she trust him to pay her any more attention after they slept together’ Sex? They’ve barely spoken! Apart from that, he kissed her and then didn’t speak to her for two weeks.
- The ex-boyfriend: an apology? How is that considered acceptable? Especially with the evidence of his insulting behaviour? Just wrong, wrong, wrong.
- ‘I invited you to visit Gatcombe on a whim….but then I proposed to you, also on a whim’ A WHIM?!?!? Why was Amelia not outraged? Too spineless at this point.
- The wedding dress? A real face palm! No Royal bride in the history of Royal brides, particularly modern ones, would have their future husband, his team of courtiers, admins, publicists, and so forth, foist that red and white rose monstrosity on her. IF there had been a tradition of such a thing within this alternate realm that would be a different matter, but it is clear that there was no such tradition.
- Baring her soul to a barista: NO. NO. NO. NO. Completely out of character. Amelia is the daughter of an Earl. She was brought up in a strict aristocratic manner to behave in certain ways, a fact well and truly demonstrated repeatedly throughout the book. If she were to breakdown with anyone it would be Edward, her protection officer; they have a good and close relationship, and he is a Keeper of Secrets; it’s part of his job.
WHAT WAS MISSING:
- Why does Parliament get away with not funding Yorkshire schools? Where are the Yorkist politicians? Are Yorkists disenfranchised? (*See my note above.)
- Witchcraft and Magic in any meaningful and overt way – its barely there
- ‘the hate nearly everyone has for women’: no explanations for this whatsoever
- No idea of how society works in general – employment, education, voting rights, and so forth. These would explain a great deal about this alternate UK.
- The political and social aspects are things that Amelia and Arthur could have discussed when ‘getting to know one another’ (which didn’t happen) and as part of the basis of their marriage contract, especially given the fact that Amelia sees her marriage to Arthur as a way to help her Yorkist home. It would also set the reader up for future books in the series.
- Witchcraft and Magic does not appear in any meaningful and overt way – its barely there, Another missed opportunity.
- ‘the hate nearly everyone has for women’: no explanations for this whatsoever. Why? How is the reader meant to understand?
Why I’m so disappointed:
It is such a brilliant idea, and having read other Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese books and enjoyed them, I was excited to read QFTN. The possibilities were multiple and diverse but in the end, for me** they failed to deliver.
Will I read the next in the series? Maybe. If I do, I shall apply Heartshaped’s Three Chapter Rule, and see what happens.
**Let me say that this is MY opinion; others have read this book and awarded 4 and 5 stars on Amazon and Goodreads. So maybe readers should try a sample? Or borrow from a library? If you do, I would like to hear your what you think..