The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel
Weary of mourning a fiancé killed in World War II, Vera Strathmore accepts her cousin’s invitation to an after-hours party with the fun-loving “set” surrounding 19-year-old Princess Margaret. Shocked to discover that the Princess is a fan of the racy romance novels she has written under the pen name of Rose Lavish, and even more surprised to find herself drawn quickly into the mercurial royal’s confidence, Vera becomes fascinated with the contrast between Margaret’s demure official persona and her pleasure-loving, rule-breaking private activities.
Fans of The Crown will be delighted with this chatty, dishy peek behind the scenes of royal family life, and with the detailed descriptions of the posh pastimes, fashions, music, and beverages of the era (I am eager to try the Queen Mother’s favorite tipple, gin and Dubonnet!). Vera’s is a level-headed, good-humored point of view from which to observe the spoiled but affectionate Margaret’s antics; her authorial ambitions give her a convincing reason to remain in Margaret’s service in spite of the toll it takes on Vera’s personal relationships. The romance Blalock has designed for Vera is conveniently on-again, off-again, giving her main character plenty of time to devote to managing the Princess’s increasingly complex love life.
By the time her ill-fated alliance with the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones threatens Vera’s usefulness, the reader has gained a clear sense of what was gained and what was lost for Britain’s royals in the transition from post-World War II austerity to the frenetic Mod period. Because the social history is chiefly from the lofty perspective of England’s upper crust, the novel offers a slightly superficial portrait of this economically and politically turbulent time, but it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a well-written novel of manners, as well as a portrait of a remarkable, if fictional, friendship.