72 of 83 people found the following review helpful
(2.5 stars) Why this isn't a romantic book, and why it drove me crazy,
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This review is from: The First Princess of Wales: A Novel (Paperback)
Ever since reading in another novel that she was married at 12 and then became a bigamist at 13, I've been interested in Joan of Kent, so naturally when I heard about this book I pre-ordered it. As it turned out, I need not have been so enthusiastic-this is really nothing more than a cheesy romance novel that really, even isn't even a romance novel since the male lead (Edward the Black Knight, Prince of Wales, never became king) insists throughout the book on practically raping the female lead (Joan of Kent).
The back cover of this book says that Joan, in this novel, is plotting to get even with the King of England, Edward III, for her father's death, which he failed to prevent and may have encouraged (her dad was hung for treason which he was not guilty of). I would just like to say that this is not a major plot point, in fact, this is a thought, not a plan, or a plot, that Joan has, for a little while. It is a not a major part of the book. The vast majority of the book is spent with Joan or Edward moping about in various places because they aren't together. That really is the book. Really, that's it, except for two war scenes and one peasant uprising (which was interesting.)
This is supposed to be a romance, but as a wise woman once wrote, it is not a romance novel in any way if the romance in question involves rape. And in the novel there are just too many references too Edward wanting to "tame" Joan or Edward getting what he wanted from Joan whether or not she was willing to give it to him. Ultimately she does always capitulate, and I am aware that Edward's attitude is completely normal for the age he lived in, but this is a novel that is supposed to be romantic to contemporary readers and I find it offensive the author considers Edwards's actions to be romantic.
And Joan! She is such a pain! Every time she actually made a choice and stuck to it some man, usually Edward, would ride by and talk her out of it, or just kiss her, and all of her convictions would melt away. I mean lady, grow a backbone! On top of this the book gives no feel for the time period at all. I mean none. For a book that does read "Katherine" by Anya Seton.
The other thing in this book that bothered me was Joan's age. In real life Joan was 2 years older than Edward. In this book, which starts when Joan goes to court, no mention is made of her age, but it is implied that she has reached puberty. At court where we meet Edward it is implied by his living situation (alone with buddies) and sexual actions (whores and all!) that he is at the youngest a middle teenager. Yet later we learn Edward and Joan were born about the same time. Then, at Joan's wedding, we learn that her older brother John, who is five years older, is 20, and it has been five years since she went to court. This makes her fifteen, meaning she was ten when she went to court and Edward started to try to seduce her (ick!) This number also works well with the real life numbers of married first at 12, and so on. But two and a half years later her brother John's age is still listed as being 20! I know this isn't a big deal but it just drove me nuts and kept me from enjoying the rest of the book-not that this book has much to enjoy.
What I did like was that Princess Isabella in this book wasn't an old, unattractive, hag who some young man who forced to marry, she was a beautiful woman who waited for the right man, he just happened to be ten years younger.
So for the annoying characters, the plot that consists of moping around all of England and some of France, a prince who doesn't care about consent and some seriously annoying time discrepancies, this book gets 2.5 stars from me. I can't say I recommend it.
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Initial post: Nov 6, 2007 6:13:09 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 8, 2007 8:27:18 AM PST
I don't disagree with a lot of this review, especially that Katherine is a much better book about this time period - but what isn't helpful is that the reviewer seems to expect both Edward and Joan to act as though they are 21st century characters, rather than 14th century characters. What made Edward's actions toward Joan romantic was the devotion he showed her. True, he pressured her aggressively to become his mistress, at times forcing the issue, but that would have been completely normal behavior of the Prince of Whales at the time. And expecting that Joan should grow a backbone and not be influenced by powerful men who she loved? This was the 1300s, not the 1900s! What I do agree with and find disturbing, is that that when the novel opens it seems like Joan and Edward are both about 15 or so, when in reality Joan was betrothed at 12. So if she and Edward had this budding relationship prior to her betrothal, they would have been pre-pubescent. I certainly doesn't feel that way in this book, which makes the depiction feel inauthentic and a real stretch from reality. Edward is very sexually active at the beginning of the book, and in reality he would have had to be like nine or ten years old, and he's acting much, much older.
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