The Duchess of Drury Lane

Written by Freda Lightfoot
Review by Arleigh Johnson

Dorothy Jordan, Drury Lane’s most notable comedic actress, grew up in Ireland where she had few career choices, being the illegitimate daughter of an actress. Fortunately she possessed a clear voice that could carry even in the worst theaters, and the ability to sense the mood of the audience and set the tone accordingly. After an eventful launch in her homeland, it became necessary to move on and try her talents elsewhere.

Moving to England proved successful, for not only did she rise to be one of the highest paid actresses at Drury Lane, but she also caught the eye of Prince William, the Duke of Clarence. Having been through one stagnant relationship, she cautiously accepted the duke, whom she knew from the start could not offer a respectable marriage, but in turn gave more love and support than she’d ever known.

They settled down together happily and found that despite their love for one another, the malicious gossipmongers were relentless and the royal family was not in the least supportive of William’s lifestyle — the country needed more heirs, not the children of an actress. As their relationship began to unravel and with monetary issues always at hand, Dora found herself clinging to her career and hoping that the great love of her life would not abandon their family.

Dorothy is immediately likable, and the story offers a panoramic view of the theater world, the royal family and society, from the perspective of a woman loved for her roles but not her personal life. With a host of fleshed out characters, this fast-paced, biographical novel is pleasure to read and a great addition to historical fiction centered on royal personages.