First off, thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for giving me a free, digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
Initially, I was very excited for this book. I like historical fictional, especially Regency and Victorian, and Queen Victoria is one of my favorite British monarchs. So when I read the synopsis for this book, I was intrigued. If you’ve read anything about Queen Victoria, you know how controlling John Conroy was when she was younger. But not one biography I’ve read (or maybe I just don’t remember reading?) mentions Conroy’s daughter, also named Victoria, and how she became the future queen’s childhood companion.
Title: My Name Is Victoria
Author: Lucy Worsley
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Expected U.S. Release date: May 8, 2018
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction
Length: 384 pages
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “Miss V. Conroy is good at keeping secrets. She likes to sit as quiet as a mouse, neat and discreet. But when her father sends her to Kensington Palace to become the companion to Princess Victoria, Miss V soon finds that she can no longer remain in the shadows. Her father is Sir John Conroy, confidant and financial advisor to Victoria’s mother, and he has devised a strict set of rules for the young princess that he calls the Kensington System. It governs Princess Victoria’s behavior and keeps her locked away from the world. Sir John says it’s for the princess’s safety, but Victoria herself is convinced that it’s to keep her lonely and unhappy. Torn between loyalty to her father and her growing friendship with the willful and passionate princess, Miss V has a decision to make: continue in silence or speak out. In an engaging, immersive tale, Lucy Worsley spins one of England’s best-known periods into a fresh and surprising story that will delight both young readers of historical fiction and fans of the television show featuring Victoria.”
I really wanted to like this book. Truly, I did! It has everything I love, even a gorgeous cover! But wow, what a disappointing read. 😦 This book is split into two parts: when Victoria Conroy (known as Miss V in this book) first meets the young Princess Victoria when they are both around 11 years old, and part two: five years later, when the two girls are sixteen and Princess Victoria is much closer to the throne now, with only her uncle, William IV, in the way.
We see the young Victoria portrayed as a very obstinate child, fighting against the “Kensington System,” willfully disobedient, believing everyone, including her own mother, is against her. The book adds to the rumor, too, that John Conroy and Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, possibly had an intimate relationship, though he quite often calls the Duchess “stupid,” something Miss V notices right away.
Miss V herself proves to be an interesting character, though. She’s torn between the love for her father and wanting to obey him, but then discovering the “reasons” why the Kensington System was put in place, along with people who want to see harm come to the young princess, puts the young girl in an awkward place. She soon sees herself as a protector of sorts to Victoria.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get very far after part two, just as one of Victoria’s other uncles, King Leopold of Belgium comes into the picture. I found the narrative as a whole quite boring, and while Miss V is an interesting character, there wasn’t much else I liked.
I’m not an expert on the life of Queen Victoria, but I thought it was quite strange the author used the name Victoria to refer to the princess. From what I understand reading biographies of the queen, she was referred to as Alexandrina, or Drina, up until she became queen and had to choose a regnal name. I always saw that as Victoria shedding her past life and starting anew.