Book Club: The Constant Queen

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Author: Joanna Courtney
ISBN: 9781447282013
RRP: $29.99

The Constant Queen is the second in the Queens of Conquest series and does a beautiful job of weaving historical fact with historical fiction. Not quite knowing where to start with this review I have spent some time doing other reading and checking out Courtney’s Website for some background.

The Queens featured in the Queens of Conquest trilogy are real queens who reigned at a time of great change for England yet their place in the history books is quite limited. History is male dominated, especially looking so far back, so Courtney wanted to tell the untold stories of these fascinating women. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to find the information to piece together their lives with the little focus placed on them in the history books.

The Constant Queen is based on known fact and weaves together as much of the known and important information as was practical and the bulk of the characters actually existed, but Courtney didn’t want to just summarize this period of history; she wanted to bring the Queens to life on the page. There are places where facts were knowingly bent for the good of the narrative and things that needed to be left out of the story.

All of this is just background information that I went into the story without, and my knowledge of history is quite sketchy at best, so I had no idea that there was any factual basis.

History is not my strong point and historical fiction is not something I have read a lot of, except for the stage I went through of reading a lot of King Arthur, so I found The Constant Queen to be quite a heavy read. I enjoyed the story and I loved the characters but I found it hard work, and I was forever flicking back to chapter beginnings to check on the when and where we were.

The Constant Queen opens in Kiev, April 1031 with a 12 yr old Princess Elizaveta of Kiev on the night she meets Harald Hardrada. The 440 pages of this novel cover her life from that day until September 1066. Thirty-five years in under 500 pages is no mean feat and it could so easily have dragged or missed such huge chunks of time that the story lost cohesion but Courtney manages to retain great fluidity in the narrative and filling in some of the blanks from years that are missing from the narrative completely.

Elizaveta, also known as Lily, is our heroine and she is an admirable woman; though there were times that her behaviour was far from admirable. This is her story but to give a complete picture there are sections that take place far from where she is. Harald is an integral part of the narrative, as is a Norwegian maiden from his past Tora Arnasson and at times we follow their actions and leave Elizaveta behind.

the constant queen

One of eleven children Elizaveta is the eldest daughter and she wants more from her life than to marry a king and produce heirs. She is headstrong, stubborn and strongwilled with dreams of doing more than sit in the women’s chambers and amuse herself. She has big dreams of being queen and ruling alongside her king to better the kingdom. She is smart, sassy and educated and she wants more from her life than being a quiet, dignified princess. I loved her character, she was passionate and not afraid to say what she thought.

For someone without a great background in history this was an engaging lesson about a pivotal time in English history. The bulk of the novel was set in Kiev and Norway but there were always eyes on England with a view to the English throne.

The years of the novel are rife with fighting and war, invading armies and conquering new countries. It was a bloody time in history with Queens left at home to govern kingdoms, raise heirs and hope that their husbands would return. Many of the matches made in this time were for the good of kingdoms, to strengthen treaties, to expand borders and love was not a consideration. Elizaveta was lucky enough to marry for love, a love that burned with passion and drove the ambitions of both of them.

The Constant Queen is not a quick or a light read but it is an enjoyable journey back to a time almost a millenium ago; back to the times of the Vikings and the birth of the Norwegian capital Oslo.

I haven’t read The Chosen Queen, the first in the trilogy, but I really don’t think that affected my enjoyment of this second book. I would be interested one day to go back and read the first, and also to read the third; from what I gather they all cover similar time periods culminating in 1066 but follow different queens.

The Constant Queen is an engaging piece of history bringing to light the life of a fascinating woman who did her best to live by her own rules and didn’t always do what was expected of her. She was courageous, strong and passionate and I’m glad Courtney has brought her story to life.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan 10 of our Beauty and Lace club members will be reading and reviewing The Constant Queen so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.

The Constant Queen is available now through Pan Macmillan, Booktopia, Angus & Robertson Bookworld and where all good books are sold.

Joanna can be followed on Facebook and her Website.

10 thoughts on “Book Club: The Constant Queen

  1. I am a big fan of historical fiction and The Constant Queen by Joanna Courtney, was a great read and kept me engrossed form beginning to end.

    It is set in the days when kingdoms and political power were determined either through battles or marital alliances. The 11th century was a period of significant turmoil as kingdoms and their rulers rose and fell quickly, and medieval kings were kept very busy defending and/or extending their kingdoms, often with the help of their own sons and daughters… Princes were trained in swordsmanship and battle tactics so they could extend the kingdom through pillage and plunder and Princesses were trained in coquetry and fine arts to make them attractive and negotiable, marriage alliance material!

    The author has paid particular attention to these manners, social conditions and details so you feel fully immersed in the social and political environment of life in medieval Europe and Scandinavia, when you first meet the heroine of this novel Princess Elizaveta and her numerous siblings in the court of King Yaroslav of Kiev and Ingrid, Princess of Sweden. It is beautifully and artfully captured, and is rich with historical detail.

    Set against this background are the two larger than life main characters themselves – the strong, forthright heroine – Elizaveta, princess of Kiev and the fierce Viking warrior Harald Hardrada. Their relationship is full of the drama and pageantry that you would imagine of the time, and is beset with many adventures and mishaps, but more than that in The Constant Queen, Joanna Courtney has brought these two amazing historical figures to life…depicting both their passionate spirits and the agonies and ecstasies they endure with eloquent humanity. I loved it and thoroughly recommend it!

  2. The Constant Queen by Joanna Courtney, must have taken months to go through all the data and history that we do know of, plus to be able to weave a story around the beautiful princess and her dream to always be a queen….and of course being a princess, this is what she has been coached on and brought up from when she was big enough to understand, the aspirations of her father the King. I cannot imagine the hours that w ould have been necesary to weave this story together, and with Joanna Courtney, the writing is just so life like, that I kept stopping and imagining that section in life way back in 1066…. it just seems so real to me, that I can imagine the river, and the riding of the rapids as they were, like we have the Avon descent here in w.a. in august, perhaps this was the start from way back then…. at school I always loved the history section and could spend hours at the school library reading up about how life was, and how they had to literally fight for everything they wanted to do for the King… With so many siblings princess Elizaveta would have even in her own family a lot of opposition, when she too tried to ride the river, to prove then that she could do what her brothers could do, and that she should not be penalised because she was a woman. The ups and downs of the story weave together a wonderful monument to the people of the race, and we think sometimes we are hard done by….. This is a story and a book that is well worth reading again in a few months time, so to me with Joanne Courtney I shall look at the library local, for any other stories she had written but to really absorb all the pagentry , humour, love, power, and the two main characters who come through to you, the beautiful princess Elizaveta, and the fierce Viking warrior Harald Hardrada I shall endeavour to read once more…. in a few months time.

  3. The Constant Queen is an amazing book that’ll kept me entertained right from the start to the last page. Joanna Courtney’s writing is gripping and she retold this part of history beautifully, i was mesmerised and fascinated. It was interesting as i have never read about Vikings and anything in that historical era.
    I like how she wrote it from a woman’s perspective, this was an emotional read.. I even cried.. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Five out of five stars xx

  4. Having never read the first novel in Joanna Courtney’s trilogy, I wasn’t sure what to expect or whether I’d be able to get into the story line. I needn’t have worried. It wasn’t too hard at all .
    Being a lover of historical fiction and especially romance I can honestly say I have never read any books that dealt with the Vikings and feel I have learned more about that period after reading this book, A very good introduction to that time period.
    Absolutely loved the romantic ‘triangle’ as such and the way that Courtney dealt with the characters,
    Thank you Beauty & Lace for giving me the opportunity to read this novel.I will now go back and read the first one (out of. Curiosity) in readiness for the third in the trilogy.

  5. The 11th century is an era that I readily admit to being not very well versed in, despite being a big historical fiction fan. That has changed since I was provided with an opportunity to read Joanna Courtney’s novel, The Constant Queen. Although this novel is the second book in a trilogy of novels based on the lives of three Viking queens, it can easily be enjoyed as a stand alone novel.

    The Constant Queen is the story of a strong and adventurous princess, who defies the conventions of her time. Her free spirit leads her on many colourful conquests with the fearless Viking warrior, Harald Hardrada, whom she becomes betrothed to. Their romance is a fiery one, defined by travel, political agendas, battles for supremacy and a complicated love triangle is thrown in the mix.

    The Constant Queen was a very good read, heavy at times, but as a whole it was informative. Once I finished it, I was incited to delve into the history books to educate myself further about this era and the notable historical characters featured in the novel. Courtney clearly has a knack of resurrecting lesser known characters from history, breathing life into their stories and making the reader aware of their impacts on the pages of history. Courtney is also able to successfully weave historical fact with fiction. She brings the complicated romance of Harald and Elizaveta to attention of the reader, by providing the reader with direct insight into of the significant political alliances that influenced this love story. Setting descriptions in this novel are also a joy to read. The pure beauty of the 11th century lands of Kiev, Norway, Denmark, Sweden are captured finely by Courtney’s prose. These superb cross European settings culminate into a spectacular final battle in England and the Orkneys, which closes the novel off well. I must finally mention my appreciation for the additional sections to this novel, which assists the reader’s understanding of The Constant Queen. Included in The Constant Queen is a comprehensive map guide to the region covered, a family tree and historical notes on key aspects of the novel. This makes the novel more accessible and highlights the extensive research undertaken on the author’s behalf to craft this novel.

    I would recommend The Constant Queen to those who enjoy historical fiction novels that focus more on the relationships and characterisation of historical figures. I enjoyed being provided with the experience to read this enlightening book and I am looking forward to seeking out the first novel in this series, as well as the final chapter in this Viking queen’s trilogy.

    *Thank you to Beauty and Lace/Pan Macmillan for the opportunity to review this book.

  6. The Constant Queen by Joanna Courtney is a fascinating read about a real life Russian Princess of Kiev who becomes Queen of Norway.
    This Historical Fiction is based on fact and is told beautifully of the love between the Princess and her Viking.
    The rugged beauty of Russia and Norway is so lifelike you can imagine yourself there.
    I learnt so much from reading this book that I didn’t know about the History of Kiev, Russia, Norway and the birth of the capital Oslo.
    A riveting read that I enjoy immensely and look forward to reading other Queen novels by Courtney.

  7. I delight in reading books that can educate me along the way so I was really excited to start reading “The Constant Queen” and learn about the Princess Elizaveta of Kiev who I must admit I had never heard of. I googled but other then finding a family tree and a little bit on wikipedia there was nothing to be found. Perhaps this was a good thing as then I was able to simply float along with the story and take it all in without any bias.
    It is so strange to think that back in that time it was quite the thing to think about finding a husband for your daughter when she was still just a child but I guess when you are royalty the options were far and few between so if one was presented to you then you would want to snap it up. Hence a great fuss was made when Prince Harald arrives in Kiev.
    For such a young lady she had many aspects of her personality that were very mature and she was certainly a woman that knew what she wanted and she forged ahead to get exactly that. Little bits of immaturity showed through at times such as her jealously of her sister Anastasia.

    I loved learning a little bit of this time in history and I am keen to read the other books in this series.
    This is not a book that you can rush through and I feel that it would be a great read if you were perhaps heading away on a holiday for a couple of weeks where your reading time would be quiet and you could absorb all the historical facts that are weaved into this story.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace for this wonderful read.

  8. the constant queen is not a book that you can speed read it has a love of interesting facts of how things were and the positions they held and the responsibility that was put on them.
    it was all about finding a husband for your daughter when she was still just a child herself but when you are royalty the options were far and few between so if one was presented to you then you would want to snap it up. a great fuss was made when Prince Harald arrives in Kiev.

    the way the author captured beauty of Russia and Norway is so lifelike you can imagine yourself being there.
    I would love to read other Joanna Courtney’s books a very adverse writer who really dug deep to find the right information which she portrayed beautifully

  9. I thoroughly enjoyed “The Constant Queen” by Joanna Courtney. It was a book that I was looking forward to reading and it certainly did not disappoint .
    Having a love of Viking history I was looking forward to historical references in this novel and found that as well as a compelling storyline of Princess Elizaveta and her passion and spirit in a bloody time in history.
    The eldest of eleven children Elizaveta is betrothed to Viking Warrior Harald Hardrada .Their love is fiery and passionate and without giving too much away there is an interesting love triangle thrown into the mix.
    It is a wonderful journey through Russia , Kiev and Norway .
    The historical background to this story are weaved wonderfully into this novel with family trees presented at the beginning of the book , which I found handy to refer back to as I paused to think ( as I sometimes tend to do with novels based on fact ) and the picture of the 11th century is painted beautifully.
    I would totally recommend The Constant Queen by Joanna Courtney to readers and thank Beauty and Lace and Pan MacMillan for the opportunity to read and review this thoroughly enjoyable book.

  10. I love historical romance, but this was different to any other book in the genre I’ve read. But i thoroughly enjoyed it!

    It has the perfect amount of intrigue, romance, politics, and adventure, all wound around a central plot. Whilst it does drag slightly in some places, it mostly is an enjoyable book that keeps you wanting to keep reading.

    It seems extremely well researched, and it takes the reader to a different time and place, to somewhere most of us have no idea of customs, and does a good job of making sure the reader knows what is going on (ie, it’s well written). The characters are identifiable and you can imagine being in their shoes.

    I think the book would appeal to a wide range of readers, and is worth finding a copy.

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