More and more lately, I’ve enjoyed reading about historical figures who are adjacent to someone who is more famous or remembered. I’ve read about the lesser known Mozart composer, then Marie Antoinette’s older sister, and now Queen Victoria’s daughter, Louise. Heather B. Moore‘s latest novel, In the Shadow of a Queen, highlights the princess who fought for her individuality despite her circumstances, and I found her to be fascinating and endearing.
Special thanks to Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose PR, Shadow Mountain Publishing, and Heather B. Moore for the review copy of this book!
In the Shadow of a Queen offers a snapshot of the life of Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria. Spanning about ten years, it begins the year that Louise’s father, Prince Albert, passes away. His death has lasting repercussions for the family left behind, putting them into a long period of mourning.
Louise is a bit of a rebel, and she pushes against her mother in more ways than one. From her interest in sculpting to her support of women’s rights to her unconventional path to marriage, Louise and Queen Victoria don’t always see eye to eye. In the Shadow of a Queen shows their complicated relationship and Louise’s fight for individuality as she ultimately forges a new path.
Prior to reading In the Shadow of a Queen, I admit that I knew virtually nothing of Princess Louise. Even my knowledge of Queen Victoria is quite limited. However, within the first chapter, I found both to be fascinating characters, and I loved the opportunity to get to know Louise in particular.
Early on, I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the family dynamics. Louise is so close with her siblings, especially her eldest brother Bertie and her youngest brother Leo. (Leo ended up winning my heart and was one of my favorite characters!) Louise is also close to her parents, perhaps in particular her father, Prince Albert. When her dad sadly passes away, the author infuses the story with such tenderness and emotion. It brought tears to my eyes.
Despite that early loss, Louise is a vibrant character who is full of life, creativity, and affection for others. I loved getting to see not only how much Louise loves art, but in fact how talented she is at it. And she moves beyond the painting and watercoloring that are “acceptable” for young ladies at the time. In one of her first acts of rebellion, Louise is drawn to sculpting, a pursuit considered more masculine and even a tad inappropriate. Nevertheless, Louise is undaunted, and she gently pushes against her mother until Queen Victoria eventually gives in, allowing Louise to first train privately and eventually go to a public school to fine-tune her artistic skills. Add that to Louise’s list of paths forged: She was the first royal to attend a public school. Louise’s passion for art plays a steady role throughout the novel, and it becomes a clear source of comfort for her in times of stress.
Another example of Louise’s progressive ways is her profound interest in politics, especially women’s rights. Going against her mother’s express wishes – indeed, against the queen’s explicit orders! – Louise gathers information about women’s suffrage, visits a woman doctor, and aims to support these causes she believes in. Queen Victoria is adamant that Louise stay out of politics (royals are meant to be neutral), and is oddly against women’s rights.
To my modern mind, Queen Victoria’s views seem so puzzling, especially given how much power she had as England’s ruling monarch. How could she possibly think women were so feeble-minded as to be unable to vote rationally or learn about subjects like math and science? She was even against reading novels! But perhaps my opinions aren’t unique to the 21st century; Louise was already butting heads with her mother about these political issues in the 1860s. In defiance of her mother, Louise tried to find ways she could support causes without overtly misrepresenting the queen.
Eventually, Louise reaches the age where she must marry. This presents yet another distinction between her and other royals, including her own siblings. After she and Queen Victoria run out of eligible royals who will comply with their strict conditions, the two of them decide to go against protocol entirely and select a commoner for Louise to marry. How scandalous! She would be the first royal to marry a commoner in 350 years – since 1515. Looking through a long list of nobles, Louise embarks on a years-long hunt for a husband. With a revolving door of eligible bachelors, Louise grows more and more uncomfortable and weary from the whole endeavor. I shan’t spoil it for all of you who don’t know who she chooses…. but Louise’s love story is cute in its own right. In time, Louise finds someone who is as forward-thinking as she is.
In the Shadow of a Queen ultimately is a very fitting title. Much of this novel dissects a complex mother-daughter relationship, made more complicated by their royal status. Victoria isn’t just Louise’s mother; she’s the queen, and she can and does have final say over everything. In spite of some major disagreements, Louise and her mother do have a clear love for each other. Queen Victoria supports her rebellious daughter in many ways, yet she can also be controlling as only a queen can be. Both have strong opinions and aren’t always on the same page, but they also generally stand side by side. Louise is often in her mom’s shadow, subservient to her, but she still finds a way to be her own person.
The novel is bolstered by Heater B. Moore’s inclusion of passages from real letters and diary entries these historical figures wrote. Each chapter begins with a piece from around that time, adding to the reader’s understanding of the characters. At the end of the novel, there is also a wealth of extra information about various themes that arose in the book. While In the Shadow of a Queen is historical fiction, the author put in enough research to make is fairly educational, too.
In the Shadow of a Queen is a heartfelt, intelligent, and engrossing novel about fascinating real-life people. I enjoyed getting to know these characters, especially Louise, and would love to learn and read more about each of them.
Get the Book
You can buy In the Shadow of a Queen at the links below – it’s available as a hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.
|In the Shadow of a Queen by Heather B. Moore|
|Number of Pages||384|
|Format I Read||ebook (NetGalley)|
|Original Publication Date||October 4, 2022|
Based on the True Story of the Free-Spirited Daughter of Queen Victoria.
Princess Louise’s life is upended after her father’s untimely death. Captive to the queen’s overwhelming mourning, Louise is forbidden to leave her mother’s tight circle of control and is eventually relegated to the position of personal secretary to her mother―the same position each of her sisters held until they were married.
Already an accomplished painter, Louise risks the queen’s wrath by exploring the art of sculpting, an activity viewed as unbefitting a woman. When Louise involves herself in the day’s political matters, including championing the career of a female doctor and communicating with suffragettes, the queen lays down the law to stop her and devotes her full energy to finding an acceptable match for her defiant daughter.
Louise is considered the most beautiful and talented daughter of Queen Victoria but finding a match for the princess is no easy feat. Protocols are broken, and Louise exerts her own will as she tries to find an open-minded husband who will support her free spirit.
In the Shadow of a Queen is the story of a battle of wills between two women: a daughter determined to forge her own life beyond the shadow of her mother, and a queen resolved to keep the Crown’s reputation unsullied no matter the cost.
About the Author
Heather B. Moore is a USA Today best-selling and award-winning author of more than seventy publications, including The Paper Daughters of Chinatown. She has lived on both the East and West Coasts of the United States, as well as Hawaii, and attended school abroad at the Cairo American Collage in Egypt and the Anglican School of Jerusalem in Israel. She loves to learn about history and is passionate about historical research.