THE SHADOW PRINCESS, by Mary Hart Perry
To catch one of history’s most notorious killers, a princess risks losing her family, her life—and her heart…
London, 1888: A year after Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee terror mounts in the city’s slums. A killer has butchered two prostitutes, the crimes brutal even by London’s hardened standards. Rumors of the murders reach Princess Vicky, daughter of Queen Victoria and grieving widow of the German Emperor Frederick III. When her niece Princess Maud visits, she brings with her even worse news–the Metropolitan Police have a suspect. It’s Vicky’s nephew, Crown Prince Eddy. Desperate to clear her family’s name, Vicky rushes back to England.
Detective Inspector Thomas Edmondson believes there is a royal cover-up behind the killings. He will stop at nothing to expose the truth and bring a murderer to justice before he can kill again. But when Vicky joins him in searching for the man who will become known as Jack the Ripper, neither of them foresee the overpowering attraction that will draw together the royal and the commoner—or the danger their love puts them in.
from Chapter 35
It took every ounce of determination to say what he had promised himself he must say to her. “You have to leave. Now.” He moved her out of his arms, held her away from him, gave her a firm nod of his head.
She frowned. “You don’t want me?”
“Oh, Lord, woman. Want you?” His heart broke at the tremble in her voice and shadow of loss in her eyes. “Of course I do. But this is impossible. I can’t treat you like—” He couldn’t say it.
“Like one of these women whose murderer you’re chasing?” She laughed, and suddenly her smile was back. “Thomas, you’re not degrading me by taking me into your bed. Don’t you see how good you are for me? I don’t think I’ve smiled in a year. I haven’t been held in a man’s arms, or laughed, or sung a song … and now, because of you, I can do those things. There’s no reason why we can’t spend time together.”
He stepped back, putting more space between them. His only defense. Her nearness was like a drug he didn’t want to give up. “No. You’re wrong. There’s every reason why we can’t be together. There’s no future for us. It was wrong of me to make love to you. To continue will only hurt you. Me as well. Darling, this can’t end happily.”
“Why not?” She planted her feet, propped fists on her hips, looking and sounding more like her niece now—stubborn, wanting what she wanted without considering the consequences. “I don’t care what people think. I don’t care that our stations in life are so very different.”
“But it does matter to you, don’t you see? Just the fact that you’ve brought up class—that means you think about such things. Just as everyone else in the world does. A vast social gulf lies between us. I’ll never be welcome in your mother’s court. And you’d be—”
“She would accept you if I told her I wanted you there.”
“No.” He shook his head. “It won’t happen.”
“Then in my court. In Potsdam. There you will always be welcome, Thomas.”
He closed his eyes and sighed. He’d never been out of the country, hardly been out of London. He was a mudlark. A Whitechapel brat. Even the West End felt like a foreign land to him, enemy territory. “My precious empress. You are dreaming.”
She spun away from him, her shoulders rigid with anger. “Now you’re just making excuses. You’ve decided you don’t want me.” Without seeing her face he knew she was crying.
Instead of giving in to her, and to his own need, he reacted the only way that was safe. With anger.
“Stop it!” he shouted. “This has nothing to do with what I want. Don’t you understand? I came here tonight delirious with expectations, ecstatic, hoping you’d be here. But the moment I saw you—perfect you, royal you, an empress in my shabby room—I knew it wasn’t right. Did you actually imagine a future for us? You said I didn’t have to give my heart. You said you’d never marry again. How do you imagine you’d explain me to your family and others? Would you grant me a title and land in Germany? Create a fantasy world to legitimize me as your lover, your consort?”
She shook her head, tears streaming down her cheeks, no longer trying to hide them from him. “I hadn’t thought—”
“No, of course not. And neither had I.”
I’m really not sure how to start this review. This is my second book of Ms. Perry’s to read and I was blown away and the historical details encompassing it. It should be noted that a few of the details in the book are from her mind…not history books. I’ll explain:
1. Yes, Victoria was married to the Emperor of Germany. And yes, the heir is an idiot but what’s a mother to do?
2. There really was a Jack the Ripper that butchered whores in the East End. It is said that he was never caught and to this day its debated about the true identity of the killer. Some say he died, moved away and/or just stopped.
3. The classes in Queen Victoria’s time were truly separate and the two shall never meet. Try telling that to Vicky and Thomas. 😉
4. The settings are very real and Ms. Perry describes them as though you are a fly on the wall.
5. As I have stated before, as much as I admired Queen Victoria, she truly was a bully to her children. I think they only child that was truly her contemporary and treated her as such was Vicky.
All that said, the rest of the book is truly a vision of the who, what, when, where and how of Jack the Ripper from Ms. Perry. She has written a taunt, heart pounding and heartbreaking story about two people who would have never met and fell in love. Yes, against the backdrop, there is a love story and Ms. Perry wrote it beautifully and poignantly.
The above scene (excerpt) broke my heart in two but it truly had to be done that way. I kept reading to see if they would truly get some kind of HEA. I completely understood and agreed with how the book ended. (Keep that in mind contemporary readers) Ms. Perry writes her historical romance with a slight hand to historical fiction with romantic elements. Yes, there is romance but it’s not the rake/duke/rogue/virginal/heiress/deb either. Vicky and Thomas are “older” characters which I loved. They had loved and lost before so their romance was very relatable and palpable.
Maud and Sophie were a hoot! Teenagers will always be teenagers no matter what the time period. They gave the story levity when needed. I loved the scene between Sophie and her mother (Vicky) about her seeing someone after her husband/father died. Very teenager like and yes, it was something that any kid would say to their parent. Bravo Ms. Perry.
If I had one thing to say about the book was that I read Beatrice’s book “Seducing the Princess” first and I think this one takes place either before or after. I’m not quite sure. The link to that review is below. Again, it’s not a complaint. I think I’m just confused. LOL!
Overall, this a brilliant book about two people who fall in love, that shouldn’t, against a backdrop of murder, deception and good old fashion mystery.
Bio: Mary Hart Perry (aka Kathryn Johnson)
Mary Hart Perry grew up in New England and now lives in the Washington DC area with her husband and two feline writing partners, Tempest and Miranda. She’s the author of over 40 novels published by major U.S. and foreign publishers. She writes historical fiction as Mary Hart Perry and contemporary romantic thrillers under her own name, Kathryn Johnson. She also teaches fiction-writing workshops for The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Her popular 8-week course, The Extreme Novelist, supports and encourages class members through a full first draft of their novels. In 2008, she founded Write by You, a writer’s mentoring service, to aid individual authors in reaching their publication goals. She has been nominated for the prestigious Agatha Christy Award, and won the Heart of Excellence and Bookseller’s Best Awards (sponsored by the Romance Writers of America). Her works in progress include Victorian thrillers inspired by the lives of Queen Victoria’s daughters, and a new contemporary romantic-suspense series scheduled for release in 2014-15. Kathryn is a member of the Author’s Guild, Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Novelists Inc, and the Historical Novel Society.
Contact: Mary@MaryHart Perry.com, or Kathryn@WriteByYou.com
Twitter: @Mary_Hart_Perry or @KathrynKJohnson