Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Irish Princess by Karen Harper

Elizabeth "Gera" Fitzgerald is practically an Irish Princess. Her grandmother was also Henry the VIII's grandmother. Gera's family is torn apart by the paranoia of Henry Tudor.  He thought her father was trying to get Ireland away from him.  Her father died in the Tower.  Her older half brother raised an army to fight the English when their father was taken away.  Gera managed to escape from their castle before her foster brother gave the castle to the English.  Never trust the foster brothers - shades of Game of Thrones!
She decides to get revenge on Henry. She is just 11or 12 when she makes this vow to herself.
Gera does lead a pretty happy life but never forgets what the English did to her family.

I enjoyed this book very much. The characters were real.  I like historical fiction about the Tudors.  If you like books by Philippa Gregory, you will like this one!

From the author's site:

Torn from Ireland and her defeated family, Elizabeth (Gera) Fitzgerald, “the uncrowned princess of Ireland,” dares to defy the powerful Tudors in her quest for revenge.  But Gera finds love with a bold Tudor sea captain and discovers that Mary and Elizabeth Tudor are sometimes at odds with their royal father, Henry VIII, too.  From Ireland’s lush fields to the glittering royal court of England, this is the story of a daring woman whose will cannot be tamed.

"Harper (Mistress Shakespeare) is in fine form, using strong-willed Irish noblewoman Elizabeth Fitzgerald, known to history as the Fair Geraldine, to explore the court of the aging Henry VIII and the brutal political struggles of the time. Raised in a family at the center of the struggle for Irish home rule, young Gera flees to England as most of her relatives are imprisoned or executed. Entering court politics first as a lady-in-waiting to Henry's doomed fifth queen and later wife to highly placed courtier Sir Anthony Browne, her desire for revenge and the reinstatement of her family is balanced by respect for the disinherited princesses Mary and Elizabeth, care for her husband's position, and her secret attraction to seagoing nobleman Edward Clinton. Tudor fans will enjoy this skillfully fleshed-out tale of an adventurous young woman coming-of-age inside a court constantly on edge. (Feb.)"
-- Publishers' Weekly, Dec. 06, 2010

It was partly a trip to Ireland and partly my stumbling on an intriguing woman while I was researching another book that pointed my way to my latest Tudor-era historical novel, THE IRISH PRINCESS.  My husband and I had a wonderful trip to Ireland several years ago.  Although I am an Anglophile at heart and am a product of English and Scottish heritage (I even did Scottish Highland Dancing for years), I fell in love with Ireland and the Irish. 
The Earl of Lincoln (then known as Lord Clinton) by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1534–1535.
Of course we did all the usual stops:  kissed the Blarney stone—all authors are, of necessity, full of blarney.  We visited Cardiff Castle, did the Ring of Kerry, and toured old Dublin town where I walked into a bookstore that actually carried my books.  But at that time, although I looked for an Irish heroine as a hook for a book, I didn’t find one.
But later when I was researching Queen Elizabeth I’s ladies-in-waiting for THE QUEEN’S GOVERNESS, I stumbled on the fact she had a long-time Irish friend, a celebrated beauty, at that.  The poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, had written a poem extolling ‘the Fair Geraldine,’ a woman named Elizabeth (nickname Gera) Fitzgerald, whose family had been called “the uncrowned kings of Ireland” and had been brutally ruined by King Henry VIII.
What gives, I thought.  Elizabeth Tudor mistrusted the Irish.  Beautiful women around her (and another redhead!) always made her nervous.  Was this another example of the unspoken Tudor practice that, if a powerful family threatens your throne, kill off the men and keep the women close so you can keep an eye on them? 
Countess of Lincoln.
Another portrait of Elizabeth Fitzgerald Clinton, Countess of Lincoln.
But then I found what I call “a telling detail” about the these two Elizabeths.  The queen once sent Gera Fitzgerald to the Tower for ‘plainspeaking to the queen.’  Yet Gera was released almost immediately and was back in the queen’s good graces.  Stranger yet, at least once, Gera commanded a ship which captured pirates who were taking French ships and giving the queen a bad name.
Aha, I had to write a book about this Irish woman, the “uncrowned princess of Ireland.”  What a dynamic woman she must have been.  And to top it off, I found she had a bittersweet romance (yes, with a happy ending, a sine qua non for me) with a dashing, swashbuckling English hero, Edward Clinton, the Lord High Admiral of the English Navy.  Look out Johnny Depp!
But research wasn’t easy.  I had to “find” Gera in books about other people.  With the exception of her once hated rival and later longtime friend Elizabeth Tudor, I discovered Gera’s story through reading about the men whose lives she touched:  her husband, her father and her brother whose rebellion brought the wrath of the Tudors down on her family and Ireland.
Of course, I’m writing faction, basing the book on fact but fictionalizing what I cannot find.  But I believe I stayed true to the real woman, and I was pleased to see that Gera’s defiant face on the cover of THE IRISH PRINCESS is very close to her extant portraits.  Happy historical reading!

For an excerpt, click here.

Pages: 406
Published: 2011

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