Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Irish Princess by Karen Harper

book cover

The Irish Princess
by Karen Harper

ISBN-13: 9780451232823
Trade Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: New American Library
Released: February 1, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover (modified):
Born into a powerful family in Ireland and with royal ties on both sides, Elizabeth Fitzgerald--known as Gera--finds her world overturned when Henry VIII imprisons her father, the Earl of Kildare, and brutally destroys her family.

Torn from the home she loves, her remaining family scattered, Gera dares not deny the refuge offered her in England's glittering royal court. There she must navigate ever-shifting alliances even as she nurtures her secret desire for revenge. Beautiful and bold, Gera attracts the attention of several suitors, but she holds a private attachment to Edward Clinton, a handsome, ambitious courtier who understands her strong-willed spirit. Even as Gera looks for a way to get revenge on King Henry and restore her family to power in Ireland, she forges bonds with his daughters, Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth, whose future becomes linked with her own.

From County Kildare's lush green fields to London's rough-and-tumble streets and the royal court's luxurious pageantry, The Irish Princess follows the journey of a daring woman who won't be satisfied until she restores her family to its rightful place in Ireland.

My Review:
The Irish Princess is a historical novel set in 1533-1559 in Ireland and England. The story appeared to be very well-researched, and the author said she kept true to the facts about Elizabeth "Gera" Fitzgerald and simply filled in with fiction what history didn't record. The author did an excellent job of weaving historical details into the story without ever slipping into a history lecture. The vivid setting and historical details brought the story alive in my imagination.

While it seemed like there was always something momentous happening, this novel did have the somewhat slower pacing typical of historicals. There was some suspense created by wondering if Gera and Edward would ever be able to marry each other and the danger of death to anyone who misstepped at court.

The characters were complex and interesting. Gera sometimes took foolish risks, but her age and anger made them understandable. I liked how Edward didn't "rescue" her so much as act as a sympathetic and tempering force in her life. I liked how Gera apologized to him for being a bitter woman during the years she plotted revenge.

There was a minor amount of "he cursed" style bad language. There were no graphic sex scenes. (And, though beautiful, Gera didn't try to seduce anyone.) Overall, I'd recommend this well-written and interesting historical novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Whitehall Palace, London
January 25, 1547

I, Gera Fitzgerald, was going to kill the king. He was dying, but I was going to kill him anyway.

In the dim back servants' hall, I pushed the hidden panel that led to the king's bedchamber. It seemed I had waited for this chance my entire life. I had been forced to bide my time until the king was alone in the small back rooms so few knew existed.

Henry Tudor, king and tyrant of all England and of my beloved, battered Ireland, was living his last moments on this earth. I pressed the dagger I had secreted in my shawl to be sure it was still there. Yes, its sharp steel, warmed by the heat of my body, waited to strike with all the power and passion that festered within me.

My pulse pounded in my ears as I hesitated but one moment. I could bear up to it if I were caught, I tried to buck myself up.

Read more of chapter one using Google Preview.

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