By Daisy Goodwin
St. Martin's Press, 2016. 404 pages. Historical Fiction
This novel is based on Queen Victoria's first few years after becoming queen, as she leaves the controlling grip of her mother and her mother's advisor Conroy. She must not only forge a new identity for herself but do it with little preparation for her role as queen. Because of this, she leans heavily on her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, but the lines of advisor and someone far more meaningful begin to blur. As she gets older, Victoria must grapple with expectations put upon her by her household, her government, and her people, while still trying to remain true to herself and her own desires. The climactic decision of this book is whether or not she will marry her cousin, Prince Albert, and although we know from history what happened, Goodwin manages to make this debate suspenseful enough that the reader almost holds their breath to see how it all turns out.
While I enjoyed this book, I was a little frustrated with the portrayal of Victoria herself. Though she had much to grapple with and needed to be strong in many ways, she most often came across as a very self-interested character. Readers will want to cheer for Victoria as she faces each new challenge, but some might find it hard to like her at times. In contrast, almost every other character in the book is complex, sympathetic,and interesting. I also hoped to see more of Prince Albert, but his role in the book is much smaller in comparison to Lord Melbourne. If you're interested in more of a historical fiction character study than a romance, this is a good choice.