Readers' Favorite

Featured Post

P is for Poetry #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I'm discussing different book genres/categories. Each day, I will give a few details about the...

August 25, 2020

The Royal Governess by Wendy Holden ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

The classroom was gloomy. Everything was brown, from the desks with their lids and inkwells to the wooden forms and floorboards. Brown was the heavy Bakelite clock and brown the picture frame surrounding a bulge-eyed King George V and a flint-faced Queen Mary. A brown leather strap, or tawse, jiggled in the schoolmaster's bony hand. It looked well-worn, as if often used. (chapter 1, ARC)
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Royal Governess
August 2020; Berkley; 978-0593101322
audio, ebook, print (432); biographical fiction
I wasn't sure what I would think about this book when I requested it from Netgalley. The cover kept catching my eye and it is set during a time period (1930s-1940s) that I love to read. But I'm not really into following celebrity gossip. I hoped since the main character is the governess and not her royal charges, that it would be an interesting historical narrative and not a tell-all.

Thankfully it was more of the former. Though it did have some flavoring of a tell-all.

I don't know much about the royal family and whenever they crop up in novels that I read I always have to look up the relationships. I have to say that that King George and Queen Mary are portrayed a bit differently than in a cozy mystery series I'm reading in which they are occasional characters. 

I really connected with Marion Crawford and couldn't help feel for her. She has such a good heart, and unfortunately, good-hearted people are often taken advantage of. I almost cried when she, at last, seemed to find a man who loved her, but he only wanted the pension and status that he thought a governess of the future queen would get. I'm not sure she fully realized that he was using her, or perhaps she couldn't fully admit to herself that once again she'd put her trust in the wrong man. Her whole story is kind of sad. Especially since it didn't have to be.

The royal family isn't always shown in the best light in this book. I knew (thanks to Downton Abbey and the cozy mystery series) that George and Mary's son David, the Prince of Wales was a disappointment since he kept involving himself with married women. But I knew little of the Duke and Duchess of York, the parents of Queen Elizabeth II. It was interesting to see their life before they took the throne.

Before they became King and Queen, the Yorks tried to have a normal family life - pillow fights in the mornings and games in the evenings with their children, even gardening on the weekends. Crawford remarks that this didn't seem like normal family life. I thought it was pretty typical for a family, but perhaps in the early 1930s, with so much poverty and unemployment, it was not. If they were modern for family life, they were still old-fashion in many other areas: the girls should marry well and to do that they didn't need math. 

I learned things about the princesses as well. Apparently, Elizabeth has a touch of OCD when anxious. Margaret was a terror as a child.

I remember an episode of Downton Abbey where Ivy and Daisy are discussing the nanny - how lonely a life as a nanny must be because they are not a member of the family but they don't belong with the rest of the servants either. This sentiment is especially true for Marion Crawford as the governess. When they were just the Yorks, she often ate with the family and her bedroom was near of the family's rooms, giving her the impression that she belonged. While the rest of the servants basically ignored her. 

I kept hoping for real happiness for Marion Crawford. It was this desire that had me reading large chunks of the story at a time. I quickly read this book in a matter of days. When I finished it, I was surprised by how much I really enjoyed the book. I wondered how much of it was true and was happy to see Holden had included the resources she used.

Buy The Royal Governess at Amazon

Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up today! Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.


  1. Interesting description Queen E a touch of OCD? I'd read more.

  2. I love the look and sound of this one. The woman on the cover reminds me of how my mother wore her hair when I was a child!

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Ooh this sounds interesting. Ever since watching The Crown on Netflix the Royal family have been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. :)

  4. i'm not one for celebrity gossip or the royal family, but i really enjoyed your review
    sherry @ fundinmental