The Merry Monarch’s Wife

Written by Jean Plaidy
Review by Andrea Connell

The Merry Monarch’s Wife is the re-release of Jean Plaidy’s 1991 biographical novel (originally titled The Pleasures of Love) about Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II in the late 17th century. Since childhood, Catherine has idolized Charles and has dreamt of her marriage to him. Eventually, political events align to bring her the fulfillment of her dream. Once married, however, she discovers that Charles is not the perfect man, the faithful husband she had dreamt of, and she must adjust her expectations and resign herself to the reality of Charles’s infidelities. She must learn to share her place in his court and in his life with his mistresses. Her life as Queen of England and as Charles’s wife is a difficult and troubled one: not only is she a devout Roman Catholic in a strongly Protestant country, she also has powerful enemies at court who would wish her ill.

This is the first Jean Plaidy novel I have read, and I am appreciative of her flair for historical detail and character development. However, there was a fair amount of repetition and of telling of the story, rather allowing the action to unfold, especially in the second half of the book where the political machinations of Titus Oates and the anti-Catholic movement were in full swing. Those sections read like an historical lecture. The highlights for me were the drama of the Restoration, and of a convent-educated woman’s acceptance of her husband’s love for her, regardless of his continuous infidelities.

Overall, I found this to be a worthwhile, informative read. I look forward to reading some of the author’s earlier novels, which I hear are superior to her later works, such as this.