Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese - A Queen From the North

It may be the 21st century, but in a not-so-united kingdom the wounds of the the Wars of the Roses have never healed. The rivalry between the Yorkish north and Lancastrian south has threatened to pull the nation apart for over 500 years.
While the modern world struggles with fractures born of ancient conflict, Lady Amelia Brockett faces far more mundane problems. Known to her family as Meels, this youngest daughter of a Northern earl is having the Worst. Christmas. Ever. Dumped by her boyfriend and rejected from graduate school, her parents deem her the failure of the family.
But when her older brother tries to cheer her with a trip to the races, a chance meeting with Arthur, the widowed, playboy Prince of Wales, offers Amelia the chance to change her life -- and Britain's fortunes -- forever. Hunted by the press -- and haunted by Arthur's niece who fancies herself the kingdom's court witch -- Amelia finds herself adrift in a sea of paparazzi, politics, and prophecy.
With few allies beyond her allergic-to-horses sister-in-law, her best friend who has a giant crush on the prince, and the cute young receptionist at Buckingham Palace that calls himself her Royalty Customer Service Representative, Amelia must navigate a perilous and peculiar course to secure Arthur's love and become A Queen from the North.

Comment: I probably added this book to my TBR when checking lists of books featuring royal story lines because I have one or two more to read as well. I have not read anything else by the authors so this would be a complete novelty for me.

In this story, the authors created an AU (alternate universe) in which the British War of the Roses has not ended and the current monarchy is pretty much the same as the real one, except that there is still an animosity between the royals/aristocrats from each house and other political differences. Arthur, prince of Wales is now a widow and he had not thought about remarrying except his niece George has some witch senses and has asked him to, so she wouldn't have to be his heir, as her mother would renounce. One event, by pure chance, he and Amelia, an aristocrat from the north briefly talk and it seems they might have made a connection. Soon, Arthur proposes to her saying it would be a way to join forces and Amelia considers it, for all the advantages it could offer to the north and to the monarchy. But will a marriage of convenience work out for them, since Amelia is many years younger? Would people accept her? Would she endure a marriage with only friendship and partnership but not love?

This is the first story by the authors I try and I had no big expectations, I only hoped for a good romance. The writing is consistent and fluid and it was easy to turn the pages. I don't think the style is amazingly distinctive, but it was no hardship to keep reading.The plot is straightforward but it does take a while for everything to be in the right position to develop.

I think this story didn't have to be set in an AU because the different elements which the authors wanted to insert didn't play such a big part to merit that need. I'm thinking of the political and constitutional situation, believing the war of the roses had continued. There are many references to Lancaster and York and the color of the roses but I don't think the authors conveyed the necessary importance of the antagonism of the two. I can only suppose that the aim wasn't to make this a political text, and part of me wasn't bothered by that, but if the element is used and ends up being weak...well.

I was looking for to the romance and how it would be developed. The fact the main characters are the prince of Wales and an aristocrat young lady from a supposed "not as likable" region didn't feel as such a big deal to me, or at least for me to enjoy reading about them. My interest was more on how the dynamics between them would be because of his role as a royal and their age gap. I must say, though, that the romance wasn't as wonderful as it could be - or as I wish it had been - since a lot of the interactions between them was about how others would see their relationship and their own doubts - mostly Amelia's, whose POV we were following - and all the countless details about etiquette and secondary situations, not their falling in love.

In fact, I must say I was disappointed over the lack of romance or romantic scenes. It did feel realistic that a lot of the plot revolved about serious matters and the meaning of the character's choices and decisions, but I feel we didn't have development or evolution regarding Amelia and Arthur as characters. We know they are thinking about the big picture and we get glimpses of their nature and character, but not of their personalities. They both felt very bland to me,e specially Arthur, whose presence is actually minimal.

The age gap, the fact they shouldn't get along, their different life experiences, their personal wishes, all these things are mentioned but don't play as big a role as I wanted to see. This means, it felt they were truly only players in the story and not active characters I was empathizing with, even when some of their challenges were portrayed as being hard and demanding.

Since the romance was not as good as I hoped, I focused on other elements, but some things just felt confusing. I suppose they worked out quite well when the authors were planning things but, for instance, the hints about George being a witch or something were underused and, sincerely, not that necessary. I also hoped the family relationships would be addressed more as soon as Arthur and Amelia said they would marry, but even this was secondary to the rules and laws mentioned... 

I wouldn't have minded the weaker elements regarding plot and stuff if the romance had been great or appealing or if we had had a real emotional development between Amelia and Arthur. But I feel this didn't happen and that colors everything else as well in a not so great light. I don't think this is a bad story, no. But it wasn't addictive nor fascinating either.
Grade: 6/10

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