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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Girl on the Golden Coin by Marci Jefferson

Title:  Girl on the Golden Coin: A Novel of Frances Stuart

Publisher: February 11th 2014 by Thomas Dunne Books - St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 9781250037220
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: historical fiction, European literature 17th century, romance
My Rating: three crowns

Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of the Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and moves to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches the Sun King’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty—she has Stuart secrets to keep and her family to protect. King Louis XIV turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and secure an alliance.

Armed in pearls and silks, Frances maneuvers the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him a better man, and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. The discovery of a dangerous plot will force her to choose between love for herself and war for her beloved country.

In the tradition of Phillipa Gregory, debut author Marci Jefferson brings to life a captivating woman whose beauty, compassion, and intellect impacted a king and a nation.

My thoughts:

“King Charles had shown me an ancient coin:
“See this woman here. This is the figure the ancient Romans chose to represent this land when they conquered it more than a thousand years ago. They called her Britannia. I plan to issue new farthings….my profile shall be on one side, and you, as a triumphant Britannia, will….(be) on the reverse”.

Thus is the infamy of Frances Stuart and her role in the English court during the Restoration period. She led an interesting life in two powerful countries, if half of what is written in this novel were to be true. Overall I found this story enjoyable and interesting to learn about a historical figure that was new to me. I just wish I could have learned more, seeing that I am not that familiar with Charles II and Restoration England. A definite highlight is that Jefferson provides an ‘Author’s Note’ at the conclusion explaining the historical facts and myths taken in the novel and some of her motives in how she portrayed the people and events.

There were a few token parts on religious conflict and war, some sumptuous illustrative descriptions of court and the clothes worn of the period, but overall, the authenticity was lacking as the focus is on what I would call soap opera. Sadly at times I found this tale to be likened to a high school drama, it read like a regency romance: who they like and who they don’t, proposals, squeals (good and bad), rejections and cat fights over who was sleeping with whom. This certainly makes the novel more romantic fiction than historical fiction.

Also, as necessary as it is to move the historical storytelling along, it did at times however, have major skips in time that made some made events feel superficial and an ending that was somewhat abrupt. Perhaps the book needed to be longer to provide both characters (this would have gone a long way to help explain emotional feelings and decision making) and events (the Great Fire of London was lucky to be detailed in a couple of pages) with more depth.

I don't want to sound too negative because I didn't actually dislike Girl on the Golden Coin – it was a quick read that kept me entertained and help provide me with a brief introduction to Charles II reign. If you enjoy historical romance and either like this particular period or are looking for something slightly different, in the light historical fiction genre, you may well enjoy this. It's glamorous, sexy, and a quick read.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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