The other day I finished reading The Queen’s Lover by Vanora Bennett — which I mentioned finding serendipitously on the library shelves. I enjoyed Bennett’s previous two works, Portrait of an Unknown Woman and Figures in Silk, quite a bit. This one the least of the three — and I have to say I am irritated beyond reason at the decision to change the title from the UK version, Blood Royal, to The Queen’s Lover. That’s probably not Bennett’s fault but paired with the extremely Philippa Gregory-esque cover art, it just smacks of bandwagon jumping and Bennett doesn’t deserve that in any sense. I’m not slamming Gregory — I’ve enjoyed some of her books and I’m all for anyone keeping Tudor Trash on the bestseller lists. But honestly. Blood Royal really captures the importance of this story — that of the French Princess Catherine of Valois, who married Henry V and then married a nonroyal, Owain Tudor — that match made them grandparents to Henry VII, founder of the dynasty. But royals didn’t just marry nonroyals back then so and this was a pretty tumultuous time in European history — Agincourt! Joan of Arc! Wars of the Roses!
OK, rant over. I have to admit I kept going in this book mostly because I didn’t really know how all the characters fit into my understanding of English history — I knew the Tudors were upstarts of some kinds and I’m pretty good from Edward IV on, but the back story was new to me. So that definitely kept me engaged. The lifelong love story between Owain and Catherine, not so much. I could sympathize with an intelligent, compassionate young woman caught in a warring family and between warring countries. But I didn’t care, on a gut level, what happened to these people, which is too bad. So I’m going to give it a B. I hope Bennett goes on to write more and maybe more about common people — that was one of the attractions of Figures in Silk, was its merchant’s-eye view of the goings on of royalty.