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The First Princess of Wales: A Novel Paperback – December 26, 2006

3.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Harper's (sort of) latest (after The Last Boleyn, but originally published in 1984 as Sweet Passion's Pain) breathes a lust for life into history's distant icons. Fiery-tempered Joan of Kent arrives in the court of King Edward III, but is ill-prepared for the complicated court politicking and attentions of debonair Prince Edward. From their first meeting, the two engage in a standoffish flirtation that continues even as Joan learns that Edward's family had a part in her father's long-ago execution for treason. She sets her sights on Edward as a target for revenge, but her thirst for payback turns into a passion denied fulfillment by circumstances that keep them apart. As the years pass, Joan marries another man and starts a family, her brother John is killed, and Edward leads the English army to victory in France. Harper keeps the tension taut as she weaves together the many subplots into a first-rate epic. Love prevails in a grand fashion at the end. (Dec.)
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About the Author

KAREN HARPER is the author of the bestselling Elizabeth I mystery series and the novel The Last Boleyn. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, and Naples, Florida.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (December 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307237915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307237910
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #510,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lilly Flora VINE VOICE on February 3, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: Paperback
Aside from the shallow, fatuous characterizations, the gratuitous borderline-rape sex scenes, the anachronistic dialogue, and the utter lack of historical verity it was not a bad read. If you are looking for a realistic depiction of Joan of Kent or fourteenth century England, you will be sorely disapointed.

Ms. Harper was unable to even accurately portray Joan's honours and dignities, refering to her as the "Duchess of Kent" and stating that her husband, Thomas Holland, did not assume the titles by her right. The Holland-Salisbury case and the consequeseces of the death of Edmund of Woodstock are grossly distorted. The historical continuity is preposterously inaccurate, as are the names and relative ages of Joan's siblings and children.

As for the unwarranted copulation and the vapid, desultory female characters, anyone who has previously read Ms. Harper's work will not be surprised. Despite all of these severe flaws, I found this book easy to read and not unenjoyable. Consider it as a beach read or on a commute.
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Format: Paperback
With an avid interest in British history, I eagerly ordered this book because not many books have been written about Joan of Kent. To my great disappointment, I was delivered a cheap romance. The characters were shallow and incoherent. The plot was predictable, moving from one lurid sex scene to another, all of which were boringly the same.

To classify this book as a "historical" novel does a great disservice to customers of Amazon since the book had little to do with history. Anyone expecting a work on par with the writings of Sharon Penman, Edith Pargeter, Roger Mortimer or Jean Plaidy will feel let down by this book.
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Format: Paperback
You know, I don't really feel like it's even fair for me to be reviewing this book since I didn't even make it through the first 40 pages ... but if you're like me and vapid, cliched, romance-novel style prose really turns your stomach, save your money. This book is truly awful. Before I even reached the end of the second chapter, I got to hear about how the heroine's "wayward blond locks" "tumbled in natural curls," was twice reminded of her "wheat colored" hair (it must be very important to the storyline to remember this fact), oh and let's not forget how her dress accentuated "the swell of her high, firm breasts." And of course she soon spies a brave knight and notes how his "muscular chest, shoulders and arms stretched his black, leather gambeson taut under the fine hauberk of dark chain mail molded to his body." Seriously, I'm not making this up. After I read that little gem I flipped ahead and asked myself if I could really stomach another 574 pages of such tripe and then promptly tossed the book in the garbage.

Equally annoying was the author's habit of jumping from one character's head to another without warning, mid page (which I suppose in her defense was a much more common practice back in the 80s when this book was written), and her decision to spell out one character's Scottish accent ("I truly doan' think ye'll be seein' too many knights who'd wed wi' a lady to give her free rein like some willful palfrey, lassie ...") which I found so irritating I didn't even bother to read any of that character's lines.

I don't know, maybe the book gets better but I really didn't want to waste any time finding out. Maybe a true romance novel connoisseur would appreciate this book in a way that I am not able to. But as for my personal tastes, I like to see prose that is a little more original and a little less nauseating.
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