McRae, Erin & Racheline Maltese. A Queen from the North. Avian30. (Royal Roses, Bk. 1). May 2017. 418p. ebk. ISBN 9781537890357. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE Prince Arthur is next in line for the throne of an alternate Britain, where the War of the Roses never truly ended and the rivalry between York and Lancaster holds strong. With his father secretly ailing, Arthur must abandon his image as a womanizing widower in order to produce an heir. Recently dumped by her boyfriend and rejected from her first-choice PhD program, a distraught and defensive Lady Amelia Brockett makes quite the impression when she bumps into the Prince of Wales at a horse race. Amelia, the youngest daughter of a minor earl from the backwater of Yorkshire, feels the sense of injustice among the people. When Arthur proposes a strategic marriage—one that might finally unite their houses—Amelia has the chance to change the country, but it will prove difficult. Her public actions must present her as a trustworthy future queen, but she privately rejects the archaic royal manual, balks at the royal wedding ceremony, and refuses to apologize for being slut-shamed in the media. All the while, a political union grows into genuine love. VERDICT A slow-burn romance, this alternative history updates the British monarchy with feminist themes, social issues, and LGBTQ characters.—Lissa Staley, Topeka and Shawnee Cty. P.L., KS
So I’ve been digging into the PILE of recommendations y’all gave me in the Rec League for books set in York and Edinburgh. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I’ll be in York for a few days in October and in Edinburgh for nearly a week in October, and I am doing my research. (Watch this space for meetup information.)
This book was billed as “What if the Wars of the Roses never really ended?” The attempt at unifying the Houses of York and Lancaster with the marriage of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York failed, and conflict between the South of England and North continued.
The Royal Family uses only the Red Rose as their sigil, and the North feels like they’ve been continuously punished by Parliament for supporting the Yorkist claim:
The Yorkish people…were as distinct as the Scots or the Welsh. But rather than be recognized as a country within the Unified Kingdom in its own right, Yorkshire and the entire North – all the counties between Midlands and the Scottish Border- were seen as a backwater. Not worth government money or even a kind word in the myths and legends that drove the nation’s tourist based economy. Even the worst off of the south always fared better.
It’s an interesting premise, and I like positing “what if” historical scenarios and gaming them out.
It’s set in the year About Now, and Arthur, the Prince of Wales, has found himself in need of an heir. And in order to get one of those, he needs a wife. At a horse race, he meets Amelia, the daughter of a Yorkish earl and the little sister of one of his school friends, and he realizes that she’s perfect. She’s of the correct rank, she’s smart and they get on, she’s young enough that she should be able to have and heir and spare in good time, and hey, she’s Northern, so maybe that’ll help heal the rift in the country, right? A neat and tidy political union is just what the doctor ordered.
It’s not QUITE that simple. First, there are the logistics of Amelia learning how to become the Princess of Wales. Princess school is a fun theme, especially when you get discussion of precisely why all this is important. Then there’s selling the entire country (and Canada!) on the idea of a royal wedding uniting north and south. Then there are smaller details: what does she wear? And what does all this actually mean?
What about when emotions rear their ugly heads? You know those? They never show up in romances. (Spoiler: they do.)
I liked this a LOT (like, I went to the Tall Ships Regatta in Boston, and ended up spending an hour in the shade of a nice tree reading this book rather than exploring ships, and I LOVE EXPLORING SHIPS). I liked the world building, and I liked Amelia. I liked how her initial reaction to Arthur’s proposal that they consider this level of political marriage was, “So… I’d be the first Yorkist to sit the throne since Richard III and I could actually create positive change for my people? I can’t say NO, can I? Of course I’ll think about it.”
Both Arthur and Amelia are wrapped up in this idea of duty. He had a perfectly nice first marriage, so he’s not expecting love to come from this one. He gets so stuck in thinking that he can’t choose what he wants for himself because that would be putting the kingdom second that he can’t see that he can have both, because what the heart wants and what the kingdom needs are the same thing! He’s just so completely focused on getting a wife and an heir that anything beyond that is luxury he thinks he can’t afford.
Amelia is also caught up in her duty, but mostly she’s completely overwhelmed by what all this means. There’s a lovely section with the Queen Consort where they discuss the expectations and responsibilities of what she’s getting into. Another factor in getting into a relationship – purely political or not – with the Prince of Wales is going to involve the press and paparazzi, and this isn’t something Amelia has much experience with.
Watching these two idiots work out their personal and public relationship was kind of frustrating (in a fun way) because it involved a lot of Not Talking. My tolerance for this trope varies a lot, but I liked it here. (I just spent two minutes staring into the middle distance trying to figure out why it works for me sometime and why not others, and I have no answers for you.)
The supporting characters were also very interesting. Amelia may be a part of the peerage, but she’s mostly been outside the sphere of the Royal Family. So she has her roommate and best friend, Priya, and a dude that helps her with protocol (He calls himself her Royal Customer Service Representative). Arthur’s sister, Georgiana, is also a super fascinating character. There’s a hint of the supernatural surrounding her affinity with the ravens of the Tower of London (you know about the superstitions of the ravens, right? If the ravens desert the Tower, England will fall).
McRae and Maltese are pretty well known as Queer authors, and you may have noticed that this particular romance is pretty solidly cis and het. There’s a hint of who the next book is about (I’m not even going to hint, because it’s a spoiler and I want you to be as surprised as I am), and that won’t be a cis het relationship.
I’m very much looking forward to the next book (imagine my squeal of indignation when I realized that A Queen From the North was just released at the end of May, which means I need to put my patient pants on. I HATE MY PATIENT PANTS), and I hope that there’s more exploration of the alternate history in the future books.
THANK YOU for this recommendation! I really enjoyed it.
The third annual LJ Indie Ebook Awards has now come to a close. Committees of librarians—plus the authors of some of last year’s winners—volunteered their time to evaluate hundreds of submissions and determine the best ebooks self-publishing has to offer in Sf/Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, and YA. These books—and many others—can be found in SELF-e, a subscription-based digital discovery platform for indie fiction. Congratulations to all of the honorees, including our first-ever overall winner, A Queen from the North.