My few forays into alternative history have been interesting, but nothing terribly exciting. Often they require a great deal of suspension of belief. So I am pleased to announce I have found an alternative history romance I love – The Queen of the North by Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese.
Imagine the War of Roses never truly ended. That’s what the co-authors Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese do in this alternative history of Great Britain set in modern times. In their version, the north (York region) and the south (London/Lancaster region) are in social and political conflict with York as the loser being treated as a second-class part of the country.
The heroine is the daughter of a northern earl. She has just suffered a broken engagement and a rejection from grad school, but otherwise lives a normal life as a college student.
The hero is the Prince of Commonwealth. His wife has died, and he is under pressure to marry again and produce an heir for the throne, which for some rather unclear reason none of his relatives seem to want.
Lady Amelia (the peerage seems to function normally in the story) literally crashes into the prince at a horse race, and they sort of hit it off. Fifteen minutes of conversation leads to a cold request for her hand in marriage—her being the only likely candidate of the right age and status.
Truly a daughter of York, Amelia, while distrusting the prince and his motives, sees this as an opportunity to help her people gain status. But the situation is rife with tension and confusion. Especially, after she realizes she has fallen in love with, at least on the surface, a cold uncommunicative man.
There are two things that make this story exceptional for me. First, the authors have brilliantly depicted the hardship and actual pain being in the public eye imposes on royalty. While Amelia starts the story forthright and open, she soon learns everything about her life as a future princess is fair game for the media. The prince, on the other hand, who has grown up in a media fishbowl, maintains a stiff and contradictory relationship, which she can’t figure out. Second, the delightful character of Priya, Amelia’s roommate, adds just the right touch of irrelevance and practicality to a story that could have turned dark and serious.
The alternative history works so well in this case, I believe, because the authors have made only a minor tweak for the reader to adjust to. Other than the York/Lancaster bit, everything functions the way we would expect in a contemporary British royal romance. Add in the mix of tongue-in-cheek humor and character torture of the most exquisite royal kind, and you have a winner.
If you like reading well-written contemporary romance about royalty, and are willing to suspend belief slightly, this is the book for you.