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18. 'The First Princess of Wales' by Karen Harper

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

This next post is slightly out sync because I forgot I had it hidden away in my drafts, and went and posted a different review ahead of this one. As certain links to the previous post are recent and live I am loathe to change them, so this incorrect numbering of posts will have to do I'm afraid!
Now, the book that I am reviewing in the post is based on a historical figure that I have always been very interested in. She is the basis of my own historical fiction that may or may not ever see the light of day. I find her endlessly fascinating even though little is really known about her, but my goodness what we do know paints for a very interesting life! 

Who is this illustrious lady I hear you cry? Why, none other than Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent! 
I try to devour as much fiction and fact as I can about her to aid my own attempts to tell her story. First up is 'The First Princess of Wales' by Karen Harper.

Originally published in 1984 under the title 'Sweet Passion's Pain', I found this book to be a colossus pain in my neck from start to finish. I really wanted to love it, but I didn't find Harper's version an easy story to follow or believe in places, having read as much factually as I can get my hands on. 
Her Joan was supposed to be brave and feisty, but this did not come across. Instead I found she was fickle and immature, and not as three dimensional as I expect a titular character to be. 
She pours a lot of detail into the story, but it is too flowery for my tastes. I normally enjoy a detailed story but there was just too much for me to process and enjoy when it ignores key elements of history. It is over romanticised, and too drawn out. It should have been half the length it was. I read ahead a lot, and found that I was still stuck in the same page six pages later. 
Ultimately my problem with this book is that Harper has butchered Joan of Kent. I understand that when it comes to historical fiction and historical romance based on little known facts that writers can employ a certain amount of creative license to weave their tale but this was absolutely ridiculous. It took me longer than necessary to get through it, as I kept stopping because I just wasn't enjoying it. It wasn't easy to read in any sense, for me it didn't have a natural flow. To be frank, there was just far too much creative license taken for me to ever enjoy this book. 
The biggest plot holes for me (look away now if you don't want to see spoilers!) were that Joan allegedly hated the royal family, yet conveniently kept jumping into bed with Prince Edward whenever the opportunity arose as a means to enact her revenge for the fate of her father, and the ridiculous scene with De Maltravers attacking Joan had me on the verge of throwing the book in the bin, which I would have done had I not been so close to the end. 
I was completely unsympathetic to any of the characters or their motives, Joan's especially was wholly unbelievable throughout as she just comes across as an air headed floozie, while her beloved Edward is a chauvinistic pig for most of the book.  
Do yourself a favour and pick up a history book before you waste your time with this, unless you can stomach a heavily fictionalised account of Joan's life. 
I'm not even going to bother giving it a rating. It's below a 1/5.

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