The Winter Prince

Written by Cheryl Sawyer
Review by Nicky Galliers

Sawyer delivers up a broad canvas of love and war set against the backdrop of the early years of England’s Civil War. It’s 1642, and 20-year-old Mary Villiers, Duchess of Richmond, and adoptive daughter of King Charles I, becomes involved in a plan to avert a potentially disastrous confrontation between the king and Parliament. Meanwhile, the young, charismatic and impossibly handsome Rupert of the Rhine arrives in England to lead his uncle Charles I’s army. Mary, along with her husband James, forms a triumvirate of sorts with Prince Rupert, but there is also an undeniable attraction between Mary and the dashing prince. Ever mindful of her husband and public censure, their relationship is one of lingering touches, longing glances, stolen words, unexpected meetings, and secret correspondence. As armies engage in battle and the queen flees to Europe for aid, Mary realizes her secrets could spell treason for those she loves.

The author includes a wealth of historical details of a country torn asunder by religious and political strife. Her scenes of military drills, pitched battles, ship crossings, and Stuart period court life, while informative, sometimes slow the narrative. Her characters of Mary and Rupert are superbly etched: principled, courageous, loyal, passionately flawed, both in dreadful conflict with their feelings for each other and for the intensely devoted and perceptive James. Even her secondary characters are fully realized: the ultimately doomed Charles I; the fiery Catholic queen Henrietta-Maria; Rupert’s mother, the spectacular Elizabeth, the Winter Queen, and the iron-willed Earl of Essex, who is determined to win at all costs. Meticulously researched and well written, this will appeal to readers who enjoy large dollops of history along with a simmering romance.