Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

The Golden Prince by Rebecca Dean

047759-FC222The Golden Prince is Rebecca Dean’s take on the early years of Edward VIII. Apparently based on a real-life love affair Edward had at 23, Dean weaves a tale of thwarted teenage love.

To do so she creates a family of aristocratic sisters – Suffragette Rose, pragmatic Iris, wild Marigold and artistic and beautiful Lily who steals the Prince’s heart. Brought together by accident – literally, he knocks Rose off her bicycle and offers to take her home – Edward, known intimately as David, enters a world that he has never known before. He falls in love with the freedom and fun of the Houghton girls and is taken in by the family as a cherished friend.

But despite the title and the blurb, the story is not entirely focused on David and Lily (something I was intensely thankful for). Each sister has her own story and these are infinitely more interesting – if equally neat and tidy – than the love story of David and Lily.

It’s not that Lily is that bad or even particularly irritating. But she is boringly perfect. She is shockingly beautiful, half the men in the book are in love with her, she is talented, sweet, kind. I’m struggling to think of any instance of her being less than perfectly lovely. And therefore perfectly boring. When she considers the idea that in order to become Princess of Wales, she must give up her freedom, her painting and sculpting and live a life of rigid formality, she is apparently horrified at the thought. But though she agonises over giving up her work – and the possibility of a place at the Royal College of Art – I didn’t really believe her. The only thing she is ever breathlessly excited about is David. Which leads me to the next problem I had with the book – David himself. Though Dean does an excellent job of showing the strait-jacketed existence of the young Prince, I was not won over by her hero. She tellingly works in his obstinacy and his determination to do as he pleases, but in every other way he is so whiny that I couldn’t bear him.

We all know how the story must end and Dean has set this up as something of a prequel to her next book, The Shadow Queen, which will focus on Wallis Simpson’s life and then her relationship with Edward. The Golden Prince makes an excellent – if entirely fictional – anchor for why he would behave as he did later. But, as you’ve probably guessed, it was not their romance that kept me turning pages. I was far more fascinated by Rose and Marigold. Rose’s story, as a militant Suffragette who falls in love, was a compelling, if frustratingly curtailed, one. Marigold – who is SEXY, just in case you didn’t know – cannot be called boring, what with running off with older men, being painted in the nude and attempting to snag foreign princes.

Will I be reading The Shadow Queen? Absolutely, if only because I’m willing to bet that Wallis Simpson makes a far more interesting heroine than Lily Houghton.

Harper, 2010. ISBN-10:0007315724. 448pp.

4 comments on “The Golden Prince by Rebecca Dean

  1. Jackie
    March 5, 2012

    Despite all that perfection, the book still sounds rather interesting, even if there would be lots of eye rolling. lol Rose’s story does sound more intriguing, maybe a future book will explore her story more? One can hope.
    That cover is artfully done. yes I know it’s the usual Phillipa Gregory costumed figure minus a head, but the way the lettering is placed over the draped skirt is nicely composed.

  2. Lisa
    March 5, 2012

    Oh, this is definitely not one for me, Nikki. Excepting the Suffragette, I didn’t like the sound of any of it. But I really enjoyed your review. Great to have you back on site again.

  3. Hilary
    March 5, 2012

    Excellent review, Nikki! I’m just about Downton-ed out, so aristocratic hanky-panky is not on my agenda right now! (In a spooky coincidence, my autocorrect has just rendered that as hanky-Pankhurst.)

  4. sshaver
    March 6, 2012

    Funny how hard it is to talk about sisters without labeling them as “the (fill in the blank) one.”

    What’s the alternative?

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This entry was posted on March 5, 2012 by in Entries by Nikki and tagged , , .

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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