Historical Lit · Reviews from the Nook

Book Review: The Irish Princess

Erica’s Experience

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Title: The Irish Princess: A Novel

Author: Karen Harper

Genre: Historical Fiction

Page Count: 368

Publication Date: February 2011


I committed the first cardinal sin of book purchasing when I picked The Irish Princess off the shelf at Barnes and Noble one afternoon a few years back. As the age-old cliche goes, you should never judge a book by its cover, but I instantly knew I needed the book when I saw the fiery redhead and castle on the glossy paperback. I had never heard of Karen Harper and, until reading the back cover blurb this October, did not realize it was historical fiction — a favorite genre of mine.

With my clear disregard for looking into the title before purchasing, I did my due diligence and looked up Harper before starting to read. I recognized her titles right away. Some of her New York Times bestsellers include The Last Boleyn, The Queen’s Governess, and American Duchess: A Novel of Consuelo Vanderbilt. The Irish Princess is one of her stand-alones that slipped through the media’s top lists which I, for one, believe is a travesty.

The Irish Princess reads like a historical beach read — easy and completely enjoyable. I would also like to give Karen Harper all the credit for teaching me something new about a country I hold so dear to my heart. I learned about the Fitzgerald family for the first time in 2015 during my semester abroad in Ireland. The class was called Early Modern Ireland which in reality wasn’t very modern, seeing as it is between the years 1436 to 1750. The name Silken Thomas triggered my memory of the Cromwellian era while reading Harper’s rendition of the should-be Irish Princess’s story but the name Elizabeth Fitzgerald was new.

While Harper does take some creative liberties, I took the time to read a few quick articles online about Elizabeth Fitzgerald’s life and realized this title does her story justice. Elizabeth Fitzgerald was an overlooked feminist icon of the Elizabethan era (as were many iconic women from that time). She even had a sonnet written about her by Henry Howard. I’ve included the poem below:

From Tuscane came my lady’s worthy race ;
Fair Florence was sometime her ancient seat.
The western isle whose pleasant shore doth face
Wild Camber’s cliffs, did give her lively heat.
Foster’d she was with milk of Irish breast :
Her sire an Earl, her dame of Prince’s blood.
From tender years, in Britain doth she rest,
With Kinges child ; where she tasteth costly food.
Hunsdon did first present her to mine eyen :
Bright is her hue, and Geraldine she hight.
Hampton me taught to wish her first for mine ;
And Windsor, alas ! doth chase me from her sight.
Her beauty of kind ; her virtues from above ;
Happy is he that may obtain her love!

You get romance, rebellion, attempted murder, treason, and a history lesson: what more could you want? My love of Ireland may make me a bit biased in towards this book, but I think any person interested in history, Irish rebellions, women’s studies, or anything in between will thoroughly enjoy this read. I also think that this find proves you should sometimes pick a book by its cover.

You can purchase The Irish Princess here if you are interested in reading. My next book review will come out on November 22nd. I will be reviewing Advance: The Ultimate How-To Guide for Your Career by Gary Burnison, which can be bought here if you would like to read along. Come back next week for my The Irish Princess florilegium! Happy reading!

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