Queen Vic

Josie Litton wrote a pretty good trilogy a while back, under the names Dream of/Believe in/Come Backto Me, which was, all told, decent. There were Vikings, swords, witchcraft, all kinds of good things. You also got the sense that she did just the right amount of research to deliver the right amount of historical detail. This was why I bought, sight unseen, Fountain of Fire, on the suspicion that it would be pretty good. I was disillusioned on page 3:

That would not do. She was, after all, a princess and princesses do not go about losing their dinners because of encounters with men who are not there.

The sound of agony I made as I read this sentence was relatively loud and noticeable in the public setting in which I made it. There are no words to describe the cacophony of transgressions here. Princesses? Losing her dinner? Men who are not there? AGH.

So now with my hopes thoroughly dashed, I read on. There’s a weak plot about a national crisis that reaches its weak conclusion at the end of the book; there’s the main couple, who pull a When-Harry-Met-Sally, The Mystery, and a #23; and there’s not much else. The male hero makes an inadvertent pun on page 73, “’I haven’t hunted in years. It bores me.’” And that’s it.

 

The one interesting part of the book is Queen Victoria – though to be fair, she tends to be the most interesting part of any story she features in. The book takes place in the very early years of her reign, when she was petite, unmarried, and green to the business of governance. All of that is conveyed fairly well, but I disagree with the way she is presented when she talks about marriage.

In the book, Victoria starts out with her historically-based, substantiated opinion: that women need men to be in charge. And then Miss Princess messes it up by convincing her that a partnership in marriage is better.

If you’re scratching your head, that’s perfectly reasonable. In reality, Queen Victoria believed that while she should rule the country as was her hereditary right, men in all other situations were generally the leaders. In her opinion, men made the money and headed the family, while women took care of the home. She was her own exception. Prince Albert, her beloved husband, was in charge of their large family: in domestic matters, his word was law. There is also a fair amount of evidence to show that he did a large amount of governing, and that his influence was very important to Victoria. Indeed, Victoria placed her affections mainly with her husband and not her children (she described babies as “frog-like”); when Albert died, she was distraught and virtually incapacitated. She wasn’t seen by the people of her country for years and years, which spurred on a number of rumors that she had died.

This is not to say that Victoria did not herself rule England and her colonies – far from it – but the picture is not as pretty and neat as we would like to think it to be. While on the one hand, Queen Victoria was decisive and powerful, on the other hand, she deferred to her husband – and believed that all good women should do so. (For example, she was against women’s suffrage.) I have no degree in history – only documentaries on YouTube consumed en masse – but it seems to me that any close inspection of Victoria’s life will be difficult to understand, partially because her diary has been so censored, and partially because she was such a complicated woman.

…Which is all to say that including any of her opinions in something so vacuous as a bad romance novel is nothing if not problematic. However, since the whole book could be characterized as ‘faulty,’ it’s par for the course – though it’s a fantastic excuse to geek out all over you people.

I’m adding a couple of links to articles here at the end, so that you can see for yourselves what I have paraphrased. There is also an ample wealth of BBC documentaries on her life (the one on her kids is particularly enlightening/horrifying), so feel free to dive in there – I’m not adding links for these because they generally ‘expire.’

http://www.historyextra.com/article/bbc-history-magazine/queen-victoria-children-mother-family
http://ualbertalaw.typepad.com/faculty/2016/03/what-exactly-are-suffragettes-and-why-did-queen-victoria-hate-them.html

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