I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Mistress of the Court by Laura Purcell
Series: Georgian Queens #2
Published: 2015 by Myrmidon
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
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Mistress of the Court by Laura Purcell is a historical fiction novel about the Hanoverian monarchy. The protagonist, Henrietta Howard, is trapped in an abusive marriage, and sees entering court as a way to escape her tyrannical husband. She sells her few possessions for a ticket to Hanover, where she is accepted into princess Caroline’s household. She and Caroline become confidantes, and as Caroline and her husband George aspire to the English throne, Henrietta begins to help George with his English. But George wants more than that, and Henrietta becomes his reluctant mistress.
In many cases, royal mistresses in fiction are treated as gold-diggers. Henrietta is a much more sympathetic character who is portrayed as making the decisions she does because they’re her best options in light of terrible circumstances. Her husband is clearly dangerous, and as a woman in the 18th century, Henrietta has zero legal recourse and must seek whatever protection she can. The theme of Henrietta’s desperate struggle to escape domestic violence permeates the entire novel, and makes me realize how very glad I am to be alive in the 21st century. Her husband Charles was a terrible person, and I kept wishing that Henrietta and Caroline would go all Goodbye Earl on him. But alas, we can’t change history.
On a similar note, the oppression of women throughout Mistress of the Court extended to the fact that they had no legal right to their own children. When Henrietta first escapes Charles’ grasp, she is forced to leave her son behind, never to truly return to her. When they are finally reunited, Charles has already influenced him to the point that they no longer have a relationship. Meanwhile, when Caroline and George go to England, the king forces them to leave their son Fred at Hanover. The royal family isn’t reunited for many years, at which point Fred is not the sweet young son that Caroline had left behind, and instead has political aspirations of his own. The women in the story were robbed of being able to see their children’s childhood and to be able to build relationships with them.
Caroline, Henrietta, and George formed a rather awkward love triangle. Caroline initially wanted Henrietta to sleep with George as a distraction as part of her own political machinations. But she quickly becomes jealous of their relationship, and starts going all Mean Girls on Henrietta. Henrietta gets to experience somewhat of a normal relationship for the first time in her life, but at the expense of one of her closest friendships. Meanwhile, it never really was her choice, as Caroline used protection against Charles in order to leverage her into the position. Once Henrietta was there, she realized just how unstable her own position was, and how little actual power a royal mistress had.
While I enjoyed being able to learn more about history through Mistress of the Court, I found the story itself to be extremely depressing. And although the novel ended on a positive note and with Henrietta’s eventual empowerment, I couldn’t help but feel sad for all of the opportunities that had been lost.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher, I am thrilled to be able to announce an international giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a copy of Mistress of the Court. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter below: