vMerrimon Book Reviews

King Fuad
Reign: 1917-1936

King Farouk
Reign: 1936-1952

Wallis Simpson:
Named Woman of the Year by Time magazine in 1936 - the first time the magazine had a Woman rather than a Man of the Year.

Nasser carrying the battalion flag, 1940

From Merrimon Book Reviews
Palace Circle 
Palace Circle by Rebecca Dean
  by Rebecca Dean

Light historical fiction with romantic elements

After marrying an English lord and widower, young Delia Conisborough embarks on a journey from San Souci, Virginia to London England.  Innocent and naive, she has high hopes for her marriage, hoping to make her new home as welcoming as the atmosphere of San Sourci.  Just as she prepares for her presentation to the British king, she discovers that Sylvia, the woman chosen to make the presentation, has been having an affair with her husband.  Delia stands by her husband, insuring his political and societal position, but her idealistic hopes are shattered.  After adapting to her new home and all the inner workings of the London circle, suddenly her husband Ivor is sent to Egypt to assist King Fuad.  As Hitler's power increases and the world moves towards WWII, the life of her daughters Petra and Davina and their lovers face new challenges as family secrets are revealed and Egypt's political position faces change.  Not only is Egypt a pawn between England and Germany, but forces within Egypt itself strive to rid the country of British imperialism.  Unlike their mother who faces much of the changes with a steadfast distancing at least on the surface, love drives Petra and Davina into the current events unfolding even when they least expect it.

Rebecca Dean's PALACE CIRCLE is a cross between historical fiction and historical romance that will appeal to readers wanting a light story where the happy ending of the romance genre does not necessarily apply in the form it usually takes in romance. PALACE CIRCLE tells the story of two generations throughout the post-WWI period through some of events of WWII as England and Germany battle over position in Egypt.  PALACE CIRCLE views history through the eyes of the palace world, both in England and Egypt.  Not only is Egyptian history seen from more the perspective of England, but the action centers around the social scenes and love affairs of those attached to English and Egyptian royalty.  Extra-marital affairs are rampant, often accepted but not spoken of in polite circles but these affairs often motivate the action and relationships within the novel.  At times, the reader catches a glimpse of the social and financial difficulties of the Egyptians through Davina's social conscience and her relationship with the Egyptian Darius although to a certain extent, the tone of these vignettes remains light and more meant to pull the heart strings and endear the reader to the goodness within the characters, as in the Davina's discovery of the broken down donkeys. 

Rebecca Dean breaks the narrative of PALACE CIRCLE into 5 parts, each which focuses one character as time progresses: Delia (1911-1930), Petra (1930-1934), Davina (1934-1939), Darius (1940), Jack (1940).   The structure gives the narrative the feel of a sweeping family saga while also focusing on the more particular crucial formative moments in a character's life.  The first three parts chart the love lives of the mother and daughters as well as the disappointments and failures in love due to the political, social and cultural complications each woman faces. As the novel moves from the women to the men, the slightly tragic tone of the romance changes direction as the political scene becomes more prominent.  The presence of spies and the tenuous position of Egypt intenally and within the world scene steps of the level of suspenseful intrigue.   The last two parts, the most interesting in my opinion, provide more of glimpse into the historical currents of the times.  Still on the lighter tone and focused on the characters, these sections do provide an image of Egypt within the framework of worldwide events of the times, giving some background to later events in Egyptian history perhaps more familiar to some readers.   Despite the setting, PALACE CIRCLE, however, remains a character-driven novel.  For the most part, history remains in the background, based on mention of prominent personalities,  as the setting for the development of the characters' personal lives as the unfolding plot action challenges them with new events.

PALACE CIRCLE is a light historical fiction with romantic elements where appearance and society play a large role.  If you are looking for a work of historical fiction that details all the nuances of history from a ground level view from the point of view of an Egyptian middle or lower class perspective outside the social network of the palace, this is not it.  With its portrait of a family and its journey in location, PALACE CIRCLE makes for a nice weekend escape reading adventure.  The pace is quick, the reading easy and I found myself easily drawn into the story.  PALACE CIRCLE will appeal to readers of historical romance who want a book that expands the stricter boundaries of the romance genre.  In PALACE CIRCLE, the romance is not always happy, and the characters (particularly Ivor) verge from the more standard romance hero and heroines into shades of grey.  Sometimes the characters make wrong choices and sometimes the characters discover the choices that are right for them only through a series of misadventures.  As a reader of both romance and more historically-detailed historical fiction, I found PALACE CIRCLE a welcome change for a relaxing enjoyable late night read.

Publisher: Broadway (March 2009)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Review Courtesy of Amazon Vine
Merrimon Book Reviews

Custom Search

Copyright Merrimon Crawford  2009  All Rights Reserved