Monday, August 1, 2011

Book Review: The Irish Princess by Karen Harper

Author: Karen Harper
Published: February 1st, 2011
Publisher: NAL (New American Library)
375 pages (paperback)
Genre: Historical fiction
Acquired this book: at the library
Warning: may include spoilers
{Amazon || Good Reads}


Synopsis, taken from dust jacket of the book: Born into the first family of Ireland, with royal ties on both sides, Elizabeth Fitzgerald - known as Gera - finds her loving, carefree world overturned when tyrant Henry VIII imprisons her father, the Earl of Kildare, and brutally destroys her family.  Torn from the home she loves, and with 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, bold, and rebellious, Gera eludes dangerous suitors, encourages others, and holds close to her heart a private attachment to Edward Clinton, a handsome, ambitious courtier who understands her strong-willed spirit.  And even as Gera works to undermine King Henry and win support for her family, she seeks to protect his young daughter Princess Elizabeth, a kindred spirit fighting to survive, whose future is linked to Gera's 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 whose will cannot be tamed, and who won't be satisfied until she restores her family to its rightful place in Ireland.

My thoughts on The Irish Princess:
I really enjoyed this book.  I chose it in my usual random style of picking books - walked into the library, saw it on the featured shelf, liked the title and cover, and grabbed it without reading the synopsis.  I didn't realize it was based on real people and events - I assumed Gera was a fictional character immersed in actual historical happenings - Henry VIII's reign of terror and the rulers that followed - but Gera Fitzgerald, her family and friends were real people, which I found fascinating.

The book was well-written with an engaging writing style and detailed descriptions that made me feel like I was right there with Gera.  I could feel the love, loss, heartache, betrayal, outrage, and all the other emotions she was feeling.

Even though Gera was based on a real person, her 'character' in the book was largely fiction - the things she said, her actions, reactions, etc.  She was a strong (and strong-willed), independent character that I really admired.  She was feisty, clever, hot-tempered and fiercely loyal to the people she loved, and to Ireland.  Patient when she had to be, but also rash at times, she got herself into plenty of messes, but was smart - or lucky - enough to get herself out, either with quick-thinking or her sharp tongue.

I loved Edward Clinton, the man Gera meets on the voyage from Ireland to England, and who she loves through the years, even when she's married to someone else.  The romance wasn't the main focus of the novel, but I appreciated the romantic elements and loved the relationship between Gera and Edward.

My only complaint about this book is that it was really long, almost too long.  375 pages is long, but not that long, but for some reason, it took me forever to read.  Parts of it dragged a bit, and with it being stretched out over 24 years of Gera's life, there were times when I wondered if it would ever end.  Other parts were lively and action-filled and had me turning the pages quickly, so there was a balance.  

One other thing that's not necessarily a complaint, but something that I try to stay away from in books: there were too many characters.  I realize that in books like this, that are set in royal courts, or where people have big families, there are going to be a lot of characters, but it can get confusing, especially when there's more than one character with the same name.  It's a little hard to keep up at times and remember who everyone is, what their part in the story is, and who they're related to, since everyone seems to be related to someone else within the story.

Overall, I thought this book was really enjoyable, and would recommend it, especially to anyone interested in historic fiction or historic romance, or with a particular interest in Tudor-era England and Ireland.

 

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