Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Royal Nanny - Karen Harper

The Royal Nanny
Title: The Royal Nanny
Author: Karen Harper
Publication Date: 6/21/16
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical / Royals / Fiction
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours
Date Completed: 6/26/16

Summary: A royal nanny, particularly in days of old, carried tremendous power to shape the lives of charges, who would one day, in turn, shape the world. This is the fictional account of one such real woman. 

What I Thought: Normally I don't read historical fiction like this. Especially not about people or subjects I am already interested in. So often, I get annoyed at the liberties taken by the author or I just want to read about what really happened rather than someone's speculation on the events. Every once in a while, though, I take a risk. Sometimes they pay off; sometimes they don't. 

Thank goodness this one did.

The Royal Nanny follows the life of Charlotte Bill, "Lala" to her charges. Nanny to the great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria, she cared for the six Wales children. The two oldest boys would both reign as King in time. David, the oldest, became King Edward VIII. He famously abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. His younger brother, Bertie, would become King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II and eventually portrayed by Colin Firth in The King's Speech. So, while Harper's characters are living a life of luxury with electricity and the introduction of indoor plumbing, this history is really fairly recent.

Harper's interpretation of Lala's life includes a lot of invented details. After all, there's hardly a detailed record of a nanny's life, even though she was nanny to the heirs to the British throne. Still, the story flows well and little of it seems out of place or too fantastic to believe. There were a few dramatic moments that had me rolling my eyes a bit, but the vast majority of the novel felt like solidly researched and historically accurate. 

Karen Harper
It was particularly interesting to learn more about David and Bertie's younger siblings. History has made much of these two older brothers and how David's decision shaped the monarchy and the future (without it, we would have no record-breaking Queen Elizabeth). I knew so little about their siblings, however. I loved reading about their sister Mary and wished Harper had included more of her even as the children grew up. She stuck with Lala's actual life story, however, which had her devoted to the youngest prince, a secretly epileptic child who died at age thirteen. Prince John is apparently known as the Lost Prince. This is a story I had never heard before and I was fascinated by it. So much drama in just one royal generation!

I particularly enjoyed reading this book at the same time I was reading Jane Ridley's biography of King Edward VII. He appears a good deal in Harper's book as a doting grandfather to the royal children. Reading the two books simultaneously was quite interesting as they offered very different perspectives on some of the same events. My timing there could not have been more apt. 

If you liked Downton Abbey or anything similar, this book is definitely for you. Though Lala seems like a member of the family or even a secondary mother at times, there are consistent reminders that she is, in fact, a servant. This upstairs-downstairs mentality really adds a nice element to the book.

All in all, I am so glad TLC offered me the chance to read and review this book. To me, this is a great example of what historical fiction should be like. It doesn't need tons of invented drama or intrigue. There is some of that here, but the core of the book really is centered around this woman and the relationship she had with the royal children. That in and of itself is a fascinating story and certainly worth telling. 

*To read other bloggers' thoughts on The Royal Nanny, check out the full tour schedule.*

Rating: ★★★★☆

Will I Re-Read: Possibly

A Reduced Review: I'm usually so wary of historical fiction, particularly about my beloved royals, but I really enjoyed this look at the life of a real royal nanny. 

1 comment:

  1. I so agree! Historical fiction based on real events and real people without a ton of embellishment, just a great story, is my very favorite kind.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!