Book Review

Book Review of The Forgotten Queen

The Forgotten Queen book review

The Forgotten Queen

Margaret Tudor was only 14 when it was decided she would be sent to Scotland and married to James IV King of Scots. Margaret is anything but thrilled, "Can you believe it Arthur? Scotland? They may as well be sending me to Hell!"

Despite young Margaret's misgivings, she is given a warm and loving welcome from her new and much older husband. James is very sweet and kind to her, coddling and spoiling her and allowing her to indulge in her childish fits when she doesn't get what she wants when she wants it. What it's clear she wants, as she grows into a young woman, is the undivided attention of her husband. She struggles to share him with the children he had out of wedlock before their marriage, as well as to his constant self imposed penance for the indirect part he played in the death of his father during a rebellion.

Margaret grows up in Scotland and is determined to do her duty by both her home country and the one she has adopted. "Determination surged through my veins. I throbbed with it, tingling with motivation. I was an English girl and a Scottish queen and by God I would do my countries proud. Both of them." Throughout her life she would be frequently torn between the two.

When her Jamie (King James) dies on Battle of Flodden, fighting the army of Margaret's brother - now King of England, she is left, pregnant and in mourning. Margaret has a deep need to be loved and during this time allows herself to be subtly courted by the Earl of Angus. They marry in secret but Margaret's happiness is short lived.

I won't give away any more details for those of you who aren't familiar with Margaret's story but suffice it to say that Margaret's life is full of twists and turns. Margaret is proud and needy, blind to the needs of those closest to her and yet she struggles for the good of her people and country and the country from which she was born. She grasps at happiness for herself to the point of selfishness all the while staying true to her fiery Tudor roots. Her position is often fragile and while she is a devoted mother to her son (at least to the best she can be in the circumstances), she all but neglects her daughter. There are many contrasts and conflicts in her life between what Margaret wants to be or what she thinks of herself and what she really is. And yet, many of her troubles are not completely her fault. She is taken advantage by many around her and pushed and played like most royal women of the time.

Margaret was never a really likable character until close to the end of the book. She was whiny and in the midst of tragedy could be distracted by a lovely new gown or a new man (roll eyes). Shallow in so many ways and exceedingly selfish, she just didn't appeal to me.

While I can't say I liked Margaret much at all, I did learn a lot about her life and the politics of the time (constant jockeying between France, England and Scotland) as well as the difficulties surrounding her son while different groups around him struggled for power. I'm giving the book 3 stars because I learned quite a bit (and after checking other sources saw that D.L. Bogdan appears to have conducted some pretty good research). The events were there, but I never felt totally immersed in them though, probably because the view was so limited and told only from Margaret's mind and mouth. The book was a worthwhile read for what I did learn. However, it didn't live up to the beautiful cover in regards to writing style or presentation.

Besides the fact that the entire book was about Miss Selfish (cough - I mean Margaret), I'll pick apart a few additional things. Please note, I've read other books about unlikable characters before and yet enjoyed them. I think the reason I wasn't able to here was due to the author's style of writing. One of those things was the portrayal of the Scotts and Margaret's own burgeoning Scottishness. I wasn't really convinced by the few bones thrown to the reader to convince you that you are reading about someone who has become thoroughly Scottish. I guess I'm comparing this book to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series that is totally convincing when it comes to portraying a Scottish accent, the Scottish people and the FEEL of Scotland. After reading her books I very nearly wished I was Scottish myself. ;-) That was totally lacking in The Forgotten Queen. I felt like the author just threw a couple of "canna" and "dinna"'s in there and that was enough. It wasn't. Margaret's son James sounded totally English and he was RAISED in the country.

I also thought the entire book was lacking in regards to the setting. There was very little that gave me the feel of Margaret's surroundings or what was happening other than the constant dialogue in her head. Most of the book was indeed dialogue driven and filled with Margaret's thoughts, feelings and observations. Most of the description reminded me of romance books (but there was no explicit s*x scenes that I can remember so I would probably say the book is tame enough for teens):

"I lay next to him, my long coppery locks spilling over my creamy shoulders, reading my brothers letters."

Really? You are going to think of your own shoulders as being creamy? It wasn't convincing. There were also a few moments when I was jolted out of the experience of reading the book by some very awkward lack of transitions or some of the language Margaret employed. There was also the descriptions of Margaret's births. It sounded like they were described by someone who has a) either never given birth or b) had an anesthetized modern birth and was unable to adequately convey the raw and gritty moments. I always like birth scenes in books (must be the sharing war stories type of thing we moms do) but Margaret's births were just weird and dare I say...boring. When some of her sweet babies die, you hardly care. I know that's a small gripe, but it was like that for so many other things in the book. There was so much potential to make a reader care more about Margaret or the people around her or even to find the mundane details interesting (because of the time period). It's these details that can make the difference between a well-written interesting book and one that just barely cuts it. Just describing your new gown and the jewels on the hilt of your son's sword isn't enough.

Another gripe: the supporting cast of characters were not deeply explored and so felt flat and uninspired. I feel like there was so much potential with this book that just didn't play out with the exception of Margaret's first husband, James.

The Forgotten Queen didn't have the flow and feel of some of my favorite historical fiction authors like Sharon Kay Penman, Elizabeth Chadwick and others. It felt like historical fiction lite aspiring to be a much deeper and heavy novel - but it never quite met the mark. Despite my complaints though, I am glad I read it in that the story of Margaret was memorable despite my gripes and I was able to get a different perspective on things happening during that time period. I'm kind of torn as to how many stars to give it and have ended up assigning it 3 because it just didn't resonate. It's the kind of book I'm glad I read, but not one I could enthusiastically recommend, if that makes sense. If you are a Tudor die-hard or want to learn more about this time period from the perspective of Margaret, you'll probably find this book a worthwhile read. If this is your first foray into historical fiction, save it for later, after you've cut your teeth on something a bit more substantial that will better nurture your love for this genre.

*I recieved a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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