March 31, 2009

The Palace Circle by Rebecca Dean

Young, beautiful and American Delia Chandler is married to an older English Viscount, and is transported to England’s court before World War I. In over her head, Delia must rise to the occasion to build a life for herself in England. Despite pressure to produce an heir, Delia gives birth to two beautiful daughters. As the story continues we are treated to the next generation’s perspective through World War II in England, Egypt and other parts of Europe.

In the similar vein of Philippa Gregory or Anya Seton, Dean’s style is vividly romantic. Though unlike her predecessors Dean’s debut marginalizes the historical figures of the time period. Though Winston Churchill and Wallis Simpson, for instance, figure in the story, they are at best supporting characters, and their stories are regulated to the sidelines. Dean instead effectively uses the historical figures and events to establish setting and mood without detracting to the arcs of her main characters—the lively Conisborough family and their suitors. The novel also raises some interesting points about the perils of infidelity as well as the effects and aftermaths of divorce.

The settings are exotic and the men are undeniably charismatic adding to the novel’s beach read charm. The book may appeal more to romance readers then those looking for a detailed and fact based account of the period—as a lot of the history is glossed over in favor of the character’s romantic dilemmas and development. Though some readers may find Dean’s tendency to jump years rather unexpectedly, it does stay true to the perspective of her narrators. The Palace Circle was a refreshingly easy read, and there is no denying that it is entertaining, sexy and fun.

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