The Prince of Mirrors, by Alan Robert Clark
Publisher: Fairlight Books
Release Date: June 7, 2018
Two young men with expectations. One predicted to succeed, the other to fail.
Prince Albert Victor is heir presumptive to the British throne at its late Victorian zenith. Handsome and good-hearted, he is regarded as disastrously inadequate to be the king. By contrast, Jem Stephen is a golden boy worshipped by all – a renowned intellectual and the Keeper and outstanding player of the famous Eton Wall Game. He is appointed as Prince Albert’s tutor at Cambridge – the relationship that will change both of their lives.
Set mostly in London and Norfolk from the 1860s to the 1890s, ‘The Prince Of Mirrors’ is, behind its splendid royal façade, a story about the sense of duty and selflessness of love, that have a power to show someone who they really are. Blending historical facts with plausible imagination, it is a moving portrait of Britain’s lost king, the great-uncle of Queen Elizabeth II
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The first thing you need to know about his book is that it is NOT a romance.
Had I realized it wasn’t a romance, I would have gone into it with a different frame of mind. In fact, had I known it was based on real life events, I would have Googled the story beforehand. At least then I would have been prepared for how the story ends.
The Prince of Mirrors blends fact and fiction to tell the story of Prince Albert Victor (Eddy) grandson to Queen Victoria and heir to the throne, and James Kenneth Stephen (Jem), the prince’s tutor at Cambridge. While initially wary of each other, the two men eventually become close friends and, according to this story at least, lovers.
The story mainly focuses on Prince Eddy’s university years with Jem, although we are shown his struggles to keep up with his brighter, feistier younger brother and his time spent travelling with the Royal Navy’s training ship, the HMS Brittania. What we don’t get, however, is a sense of the depth of feeling between Prince Eddy and Jem. I was expecting to read more about their personal relationship but I felt shortchanged in that regard.
I think this book would have succeeded had the author been more willing to build up the fictional portions of the story in favour of outlining the rather dry facts of Prince Eddy’s life. If you’re going to suggest that the two men were lovers who were bound by the conventions of the day and the realities of the prince’s future, then you need to give the reader characters they can sympathize with and root for, even when you know how the story ends.
Unfortunately, there is no real sense of plot here, and no real effort to make either man particularly likable. As well, it was written in a way that prevented me from really connecting with the story or the players. Sadly, this one is a miss for me.
Alan Robert Clark is a freelance writer.
Born in Scotland, Alan attended Dollar Academy in Clackmannanshire before joining King’s College in London. However, due to a protracted illness, he had to abandon the degree and go into advertising, working as a copywriter and creative director. Throughout his career Alan has created ad campaigns for well-known companies, including Nestle, Levi’s and Kodak, and won awards from TV festivals in Cannes and Chicago. As a freelance journalist, he has produced travel pieces and celebrity profiles. While most of Alan’s career was spent in London, he has also lived in Gibraltar and Spain.
Mentored by the famous Adrian Mole book author Sue Townsend, Alan published his debut novel Rory’s Boys with Arcadia Books in 2011, selling TV and film rights to an American production company. He has also ghostwritten and co-authored a number of books, including Camera Girl with Doreen Spooner (Mirror Books 2016) and many others.
Alan is a theatre and film enthusiast. In his free time he really enjoys singing, walking and going to the gym
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.