In the Shadow of a Queen

Written by Heather B. Moore
Review by Misty Urban

From her thirteenth birthday in 1861 to her marriage in 1871, Moore’s biographical novel traces the coming of age of Princess Louise, sixth child to Queen Victoria and her beloved Albert, whose death fractures Louise’s innocence. Though the novel glances at the 19th century political world and causes like women’s education and suffrage, the lens is firmly domestic, preoccupied with how Louise deals with her mother’s deep mourning, her own artistic ambitions, and her growing desire to marry.

Moore draws a caring portrait of family life, showing siblings who are close despite their independent and occasionally clashing wills. The dominant figure is the queen, portrayed here as a woman who, though conscious of her position, is first and foremost a mother, her ruling concern the health and welfare of her children. Louise feels frustrated by her mother’s demands that she stifle her own curiosity in order not to take political sides, but, out of affection, she finds a way to accommodate her mother’s restrictions. Along with the tedious protocols that attend being royal, and the consciousness of always being watched, Louise feels the tug of divided loyalties that result when family relationships are also international alliances.

These concerns take a back seat to the love story when the queen consents that Louise might marry and the search for a proper suitor begins. I confess that falling in love with Lord Lorne, along with Louise, was my favorite part of the book. Moore portrays them as two mature, considerate individuals who find their way to harmony and a partnership that gives Louise room to breathe as she is at last freed from her mother’s shadow. In prose sweet, stately, soothing, and smooth, Moore offers a compassionate portrait of this famous family and shapes a tender fate for Princess Louise.