The Shadow Queen
Most of us know Wallis Simpson for what she is most famous: Edward VIII’s love for the twice-divorced woman was the precipitating factor for his abdication of the English throne in 1936. Despite what one thinks of that situation and her role in it, very few of us know much about Mrs. Simpson’s early years. In The Shadow Queen, author Rebecca Dean traces Wallis’s life from a young girl through her first meetings with the future king, shedding light on possible motivations and actions of the much-reviled woman.
Dean follows Wallis as a small child born into a prominent Baltimore family; when her father dies early on, Wallis and her mother are left at the mercy of her Uncle Sol’s purse strings so Wallis can continue in fashionable schools and keep up with friends. Wallis is ever aware that her life isn’t as easy as her friends’ lives, yet she is still popular and vivacious, knowing that appearances must be maintained at all times. Dean gives Wallis a fictional best friend, Lady Pamela, whose devil-may-care lifestyle is both enviable and exasperating; Pamela’s superficial personality sets Wallis up for heartbreak that provides reasons for the choices she makes as she grows into womanhood. The story continues through Wallis’s disastrous first marriage and into her second, and ends as Wallis begins to realize that she’s become attractive to Prince Edward.
This story is an interesting look at Wallis, showing us a life filled with high expectation and little material wealth. Dean intersects the story with characters from her previous book, The Golden Prince, which I found to be a believable touch to the complicated Wallis. The book is well written and engaging, and I’m hopeful there will be a sequel because Dean’s Wallis is an intriguing woman with fascinating layers.
432 (US), 464 (UK)