The name Wallis Simpson sounded faintly familiar to me – but I really had no idea who she was. Once I found out she was a twice-divorced, destitute socialite in the first half of the twentieth century – and that her love affair with Prince Edward caused him to abdicate his throne for her – I was certainly fascinated.
This is a novel of her life, essentially.
Sadly, my interest wasn’t fully satisfied with The Shadow Queen. Wallis’ story felt like it was being told to me, not like it was actually happening. I’m hoping you, my lovely followers, know what I mean by that.
I loved the background and character development we get a chance to see – what with starting the story when Wallis is very, very young – but more often than not I was left wondering if we were ever going to get to the portions of her life as an adult that are hinted at on the back cover. So many pages are spent on what come across as rather uneventful childhood events that it waters down the more momentous moments.
At times I felt like Rebecca Dean already expected me to know how Wallis Simpson’s life turns out – and that this was a prequel of sorts. Well, in my case this was really my first time learning about this woman so it was a little exasperating for me.
It’s a great time period rife with interesting historical significance. I just wasn’t connecting with the characters, whom often felt flat. The third person narration provides the thoughts of too many individuals, haphazardly I felt, which I think may have detracted from the believability of the story.
Once Wallis is hit with disappointments and betrayal, things started to pick up. The tale became increasingly disturbing and melancholy and I began to feel for her – but I was also frustrated with Wallis. And what was pretty upsetting to me is that at the end of the book the author acknowledges some fictional characters, which I know is likely in a historical fiction novel, and they played a vital role in some of the more distressing scenes. Meaning that the parts that made me finally start to care for Wallis were completely false.
Like Queen Hereafter, a historical fiction novel I read earlier in the year, this upset me. I don’t like it when a fictional character is given such a large role. It kind of ruins the entire effect for me. Very disheartening. Also, in the case of The Shadow Queen, the story cuts off too soon, right when what make her famous begins!
Unfortunately, what could have been romantic and absorbing ended up only being lukewarm for me. But maybe you’ll love it! So, do check it out for yourself.