I found Louise to be an incredibly compelling character, and although this book was about her, the desire for realism made it difficult to connect. She wants to paint and sculpt and be political, but her position prevents this to a certain extent, and we don’t get a real emotional exploration into how she feels about this. Some moments like these feel too superficial, while others are intricately detailed. It balances out to a good story, but I guess I wanted more.
I appreciated the slow-burn romance, the search for a partner who fulfils all needs, and then most, and then some – until finally, the queen is ready to settle for anyone that Louise will seriously consider. It seems rather progressive that the queen allowed Louise to have her say and then actually stuck to it despite how long it took. The queen was a portrait of contradictions, letting Louise do so many surprising things and then turning down seemingly innocuous requests.
The bright shining spot here is the closeness of the family with all its politics and drama. Louise seems to be born at the right time to interact and be close with most of her siblings. Partially a daughter to some and partly a mother to others – the messy traditions and misunderstandings are incredibly realistic.
I enjoyed In the Shadow of a Queen and read it in one sitting (on a plane). Something about Louise draws you in, and you want to learn everything about her. I’m not enough of a history buff to know how much was accurate or even close. Writing about real people must be constraining; sure, you can tweak some things to fit the story, but history will tell you where they were and what they did. Regardless of how honest to history this narrative is, I definitely enjoyed it.