I typically blog about home and garden DIY projects but since I’m also an avid reader of historical fiction I thought I might broaden my blogging horizons a little bit and share my other love. If you don’t typically or have never read historical fiction but you like Game of Thrones then you will like reading historical fiction because short of the fantasy element, there is more intrigue and excitement then any one could dream up and it’s based on real events. Not only do you broaden your understanding of history you will find yourself thoroughly entertained. There have been very few historical fiction novels I didn’t enjoy and I’ve read a lot. Each one opens the door to some new aspect of a person from history and the times they lived in. With historical fiction you can read books written 40 years ago and they can be as equally entertaining as a book published today. There is nothing better than discovering a new historical fiction author you like especially if they have multiple books already published because you don’t have to wait for the next book, you just have to find it! I’ve decided to do a blog series and every now and again share some of my favorite historical fiction authors and books and hopefully inspire some of you who haven’t read historical fiction to try it and for those of you who are already fans, maybe there’ll be something new that catches your interest.
Author Vanora Bennet –
Book: The Queens Lover (Catherine of Valois & Henry V 1413 – 1428)
Published in 2009, The Queens Lover (also published under the title of Blood Royal) is every bit as wonderful as it would be if it was hot off the press today. This novel depicts the story of how Catherine of Valois a French Princess who meets a Welsh Squire Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur of Wales. Owen is a one of only a few survivors of his noble Welsh family after the English attacked and won control of Wales. He ends up serving the brothers and uncles of English King Henry V; the king who marries Catherine. You probably recognize the name Tudor; most people are familiar with Henry Tudor or King Henry Vlll but how does this boy from Wales end up being the great grandfather of this well-known and somewhat infamous monarch? Vanora Bennett takes her readers back to Catherine’s childhood, a time where England is invading France and expanding the regions they control. They were turbulent times, the French King Charles VI was known to suffer from bouts of madness, the French Princes were fighting each other for control and Catherine and her little brother Charles were left neglected and ignored to run about their palace with little or no food, servants or supervision until one day the English King’s brother arrives along with a young squire named Owen Tudor. He proposes that the princess Catherine marry the English King Henry V and so begins the engaging story of how Owen and Catherine first meet and how their lives become forever intertwined and change the history of England in the making.
3 Things I Enjoyed Most About Vanora Bennett’s the Queens Lover.
#1 I’ve read about Catherine and Owen and King Henry V before so I knew the story of Owen and Catherine later in their lives but author Vanora Bennett introduces both Owen and Catherine as teens. Catherine shares her troubled childhood with her little brother who would one day become Charles the Vll, the same Charles who is saved by Joan of Arc years later. Their childhood fears and family dysfunction set the stage for a greater understanding of their circumstances and the times in which they were raised. Bennett captures the readers interest right off the get go by creating a strong sense of sympathy for these young, vulnerable children whose only chance of survival depends so much on their own resourcefulness and resilience.
#2 Like all good historical novels this author sweeps you away with character development and weaves together possibilities with historic facts. In this novel she’s tapped into the human factor of being a royal and in particular a royal female; the privileges, restrictions and vulnerability and artfully shares with you her perception of the heart and mind of a young princess destined to alter the future of what we now refer to as English history. You become invested in the main characters early in the book and you become more so as the story continues.
#3 Vanora Bennett stayed true to the historical political events and details accurately reflecting the early 1400’s in western Europe. She masterfully incorporates all sorts of historic details throughout that broaden the readers understanding and or knowledge of the time period. One example is the early introduction of the character (a real person from that time period) Christine De Pizan famous Italian and French writer of the time that served as a court writer during the reign of Catherine’s father King Charles VI, writing books of advice to princesses, princes and knights, her books were still in print as late as the 16th century. The inclusion of Christine gives readers some insight into accomplished women from history and her care of and interest in Catherine and little brother Charles during the worst years of their neglect gives us greater insight to their despair and dilemmas and the predicament of the French people during chaotic times. Before this book was finished, I was googling Christine and wanting to know more about this woman who became such a successful and renowned female author at a time where few women achieved that level of independence or career success.
When reading any historical novel, it’s important to remember you are reading fiction. While the characters may be real in some cases such as the main characters and most of the supporting characters in this book, and the main historic events or details accurate, the story of the characters themselves, what they thought, felt and in most cases what they experienced is a fictional representation of the possibilities. For instance, Bennett leaves the reader believing that Catherine suffered great injustices and lack of care as a child. This may actually be historically accurate; some sources suggest her mother was negligent and inattentive but other sources reference historic documents that show her mother purchased her toys and books fit for a princess and ensured she was educated. Also, nobody knows for sure when Owen met Catherine of Valois or under what circumstances. What we do know is the French Princess Catherine of Valois was raised in a turbulent time, she marries Henry V the English King and becomes the Queen of England and mother of Henry the VI and that she eventually has at least four children with Owen Tudor after the Kings death. It’s been suggested that Catherine and Owen secretly married sometime in 1431 or 1432 but there is no documented evidence to prove the marriage actually took place but given their children had respectable and accepted royal ties to the claims of the Tudor dynasty suggests that it was indeed likely that they were legally married. I always love to go and learn more about the facts surrounding the time, people and places I read about in historical fiction novels.
If you want to snuggle up with a good read, this is it. Journey along with Catherine from a shy, neglected teenage princess in turbulent France to a Queen of England and all the tribulations and sacrifices that come along with that only to end in a most unexpected love story from which the Tudor royal lineage in England begins. Beyond where this novel ends Owen will face the ultimate sacrifice for his love but that’s another story…….