Wednesday, January 2, 2013

ESCAPE TO THE PAST WITH: The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick

In the recent Historical Holiday Blog Hop, I was thrilled to win twice! I won a copy of Deborah Swift’s The Lady’s Slipper and Helen Hollick’s I am the Chosen King. They both sound wonderful and I can’t wait to read them. Thank you to both authors!

In the meantime, I settled in to read a book that has been on my Nook just waiting for me. The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick is exactly the type of book that I love to read. When I first read the blurb, I added it to my TBR list, and then it was a kindle/Nook deal for some ridiculously low price so I bought it. This was way back when my Nook was new. Unfortunately, books on my Nook tend to slip off my radar. So I was doubly thrilled to win the sequel, reminding me to read book one!

The Forever Queen is the story of Emma, Queen of England, the wife of Aethelred the Unready and then of King Cnut. This is pre-1066 Norman invasion of England, but it sets the stage for it. Steeped in medieval history, The Forever Queen follows the career of a strong-minded woman and her relationships. It’s a man’s world, but she makes her own place in it.

Emma is a strong, ambitious woman. Married against her will to the weak bully King Aethelred as a political convenience by her brother, the duke of Normandy, Emma learns quickly which things she can manipulate and who she can trust. She discovers that she is a far better queen than her husband is king. Believing this, she is determined to hang onto her crown—no matter what. Even when the raiding Viking Cnut comes to England’s shores bent on conquering the kingdom, Emma is able to turn disaster to her own advantage.

Emma’s political maneuvering concerning the fate of her children is more complicated than the decisions she makes for herself. If her choices are sometimes cold-hearted, they are understandable in the context of her situation.

This is a book rich in political scheming, medieval history, and daily life details. Read it and truly feel swept back into turn of the eleventh century England.

The Forever Queen is a long book, but it reads quickly. Emma lived a complex, full life and the author had a great deal of ground to cover. Although the account is necessarily fictional--there isn't a whole lot of historical documentation for Emma's life--this book is an emotionally satisfying and believable version. I’m looking forward to continuing the saga of England’s early days in I am the Chosen King.

This is my first historical novel of the year-- the first book read for the Historical Fiction Challenge hosted by Historical Tapestry.