Cover Image: Valhalla


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A big story about a strong woman, somewhat  neglected in the flurry of royal stories. May of Teck (later Queen Mary), was Queen Elizabeth II's paternal grandmother. This historical fiction story is told primarily from May's own youthful  perspective, from her teenage years in Florence through to her far from idyllic marriage to King George V. A coming of age story, beautifully written and well worth a read.
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It's recently through Instagram and the various pages dedicated to the British Royal family one finds there that I have come across small tidbits of information regarding both the older royals and the new generation- mostly to do about their clothes, jewellery, patronages, duties, etc- accompanied by a whole lot of photographs. Queen Mary, grandmother of the current Queen, is one such Royal. Looking at her photographs, her most striking features are her height, eyes and there is a sharpness to her countenance. She looks like a person not to be easily crossed or messed with. The manner in which she dealt with her son's Edward VIII decision to forfeit his responsibility to marry Wallis Simpson has made her famous for being a hard hearted woman for whom 'duty' was more important than 'love'. Yes, she was devoted to duty and was not apologetic about it but there was a reason behind it, a story behind it. Before the rigid, formidable and committed to duty Queen Mary, there was a shy, reserved and sensitive May of Teck who only wanted to find true love and this book tells us the story of how May of Teck eventually transformed into Queen Mary. 

This is beautifully written book (facts and fiction combined) and there were a lot of poignant moments when I was overcome with emotion for May/Queen Mary, especially the first and the last chapters of the book. I finished this book in one sitting. 

My thanks to NetGalley, the publisher Fairlight Books and the author Alan Robert Clark for the e-Arc of the book. The book was published on 24th September 2020.
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"The thing she wanted most from this life was given to her. Is the price to be paid that there is no longer any point to it?"

This book was not what I expected.

I have always been fascinated by the lives of monarchs. The idea of dedicating one's whole life to service, of having so much wealth and status and privilege but at the cost of not being able to live one's life freely. There have been so many stories of tormented royals (especially in the Western world) over the years that I think most of us are disillusioned as to the glamour and glitz of being one. 

Going into this as someone who didn't know Queen Mary's rule or reputation apart from her relation to the current Queen Elizabeth II, Valhalla became an enchantingly impossible liminal space in which May of Teck was given (finally) the space to tell her own story. Clark writes so beautifully and creates such a tense, tragic character study that by the end you feel as if your heart has been all wrung out. The only question I've come out of it with is why May went on to have such an unrelenting reputation, even (or perhaps especially) with her own children. It seems inconsistent with her characterisation for most of the book, but perhaps there is more I need to know about her to understand.

Regardless, whether you're a fan of history, the British royal family, or indeed just another family saga full of forbidden love and angst, this book's for you. Thank you to Netgalley and Fairlight Books for the ARC! I'm looking forward to reading more of Clark's work and of Queen Mary.
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Valhalla is the fictionalized account of May of Teck, later Queen Mary. May comes from a royal family, but as far as royals go, they are destitute and not really of any consequence. This social standing changes when May becomes engaged to Prince Eddy, heir to the British throne. The engagement is short-lived; Eddy dies six weeks after their engagement. After months of mourning, May is pressured to marry Eddy’s younger brother, Georgie, the new heir to the throne. It isn’t a marriage she wants, but she put duty above her own happiness. 
It’s a loveless marriage. May does her duty again when she gives birth to a “heir and a spare.” There is really no joy in her life; commitment to duty comes first. May of Teck pays a high personal price for her commitment to duty.
Personally, I had a hard time getting into this book. The British royal family is one of my favorite topics, but not this book. That’s not to say it’s a bad book; just not one that interested me.
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I have read quite a bit on Queen Mary  and always found her rigid and unforgiving. Valhalla is the story of May of Teck (before she became Queen Mary) from her point of view beginning as a precocious youngster always wanting to be the perfect child. It takes you through to her teenage years in Florence and to her turbulent marriage to King George V. The story flows nicely and is an entertaining read that is hard to put down. I highly recommend reading Valhalla if you are interested in the English monarchy.
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This book is based on fact and then fictionalized. Mary Teck was destined to be Queen. As a child she was loving, and smart. She wanted to find love as a young woman. She did have a crush on the painter of her portrait. She also cared deeply for her betrothed. He died before they married. Later she was married to his brother. The saddest thing  is that she was never able to be herself or do anything that went against her position. Friends were lost, love was lost in her being devoted to her place in life.
A wonderful story.
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So I'm a huge historical fiction/non-fiction lover, so the whole premise of the book was so exciting to me. Queen Mary was a woman whom experienced so much hardship and tragedy in life, so I was SO pleased for this book and hear more about her.  

Please note, while "Valhalla" covers a real historical story and person, there is fact and fiction mixed in. Just wanted to ensure that was clear here. 

Overall, I was really impressed with this book. It can be really hard for authors to create a work that includes a real historical character, and blend fact and fiction together where it's well balanced. This was perfectly woven by the author - I was really impressed and had to start researching more about Queen Mary just because the book left me so intrigued and wanting to know more. Highly recommend this book, especially for lovers of historical fiction! 

Thank you for Netgalley and Fairlight Books for providing me an ARC.
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Long a fan of British history, I was not familiar with May of Teck, betrothed of Queen Victoria's grandson, Prince Eddy. Her life is not her own, and when Prince Eddy dies, she is now married to his brother, George. Basically a loveless marriage, both of them do their duty, with May ultimately becoming Queen Mary of England Well researched and written.
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Not  much is known about the life of  Queen Mary, formally known as  May of Teck. Her parents bloodlines were somewhat muddy, and it was their lifelong ambition to marry May to royalty and take a step up the aristocratic social ladder. May is well read, has a  governess Brika, who encourages her dreams and free thinking. May has many dreams of what her adult life will be, Noticed by Queen Victoria, May is chosen to be the bride of Prince Eddy, heir apparent. May is against the match, but in the name of duty she agrees to marry Eddy, oldest son of Prince of Wales and his wife Alexandra.  But Prince Eddy dies of the flu, and May goes to Italy to decide her future. Queen Victoria  again chooses May to marry George, the new heir to the throne. Duty prevails and May and George are married. Her life as Queen takes and wife to George is not a happy one. 
This was a very readable book, and I enjoyed it immensely. Anyone with an interest in all things royal, will enjoy finding out about this enigmatic woman, Grandmother to the current Queen. The book is well written, and the pacing keeps you interested, as May 's devotion to duty eclipses her chances for happiness. 
This is an honest unbiased review in return for an eARC from Net Galley
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This book tells the story of May of Teck, who later became Queen Mary, the grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. The author draws a portrait of her childhood, which was shaped by her father's mood swings, her mother's whimsical and extravagant personality, and the humiliations her family constantly received from the rest of the Royal Family because they had fallen from grace. Mary Adelaide's expenses caused their exile to Florence during May's teenage years. This was a wonderful time for May, who became a smart young woman. Several years later and back in England, when everyone started to think that she was going to be a spinster, she was chosen to be engaged to Prince Eddy, second in the line of succession. However, he soon died of influenza, leaving May grieving while her family was desperate to find a way to maintain the position. The Royal Family finally decided that May was to be married to Prince Georgie, who had to take his brother's place. Then, the book explores their marriage and how the pressure of their position and his husband's perception of it affects May's identity, as she has to choose between being herself and fulfilling her duty. 

What I liked: Alan Robert Clark built May as a wonderful character. She was a true heroine of her own story, as it was easy to understand her and empathize with her struggles. Her quest for love, on the one hand, and her experience of motherhood, on the other, were the most interesting parts of the book, as they revealed different layers of May, her expectations, and how she dealt with her duties. I also liked how this story portraits several strong women who know who they are and what they have to do, even in a patriarchal system that challenged their autonomy. Finally, since I love The Crown and Historical Fiction, I think this was a great book and I enjoyed it a lot. 

What I did not like: I did not understand completely why the author decided to start and finish the book with the relationship between Queen Mary and her son David. I guess he tried to show the contrast between May during her childhood and youth and her older self, as David's perception of her is very different from the girl the reader encounters, but I did not feel as connected to those chapters as I felt to the rest of the story. 

(I want to thank NetGalley, Fairlight Books, and the authors for this ARC, which I received in exchange for an honest review.)
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Loving books on royal history, this book did not disappoint. 
May of Teck  is intelligent, interesting and the only daughter of a noble family who was chosen to marry Prince Eddy. With increasing pressure from her family and abiding by the wishes of Queen Victoria she agrees to enter into this arranged marriage. As the couple are learning to love one another and a true relationship unfolds, Prince Eddy contracts and dies from influenza. With his death, May learns that she is to marry (much to her chagrin) his brother George instead. 
Blending fact and fiction we walk with the future Queen Mary as she evolves and learns about her life of royal obligation and duty. This is in so many ways a coming of age story. One of compromise, one of hope and fear. 
Not knowing very much about Queen Mary, the author did a superb job in giving the reader the opportunity to look behind the icey gaze to find a woman of commitment and compassion.
Highly recommended with thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest book review.
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Queen Mary has always come across as a formidable figure - upright, rigidly duty-bound, cold and unyielding. Because of this image, I have always wondered about her - is anybody quite so rigid in real life? Where is the real woman? What is she like? While reading, I felt compelled to look up images of her at various stages of her life. Elizabeth II’s resemblance to her is marked - as is her attitude to the role that life has called her to play. I always very much enjoy books about real people in history and this one hit the spot. The insight into the young May, her early life, friends and interests, then her marriage ( after the disappointment of losing her first intended) gave a good theory of how she developed into the woman she became. My heart went out to her. I also liked the hint at the end that this rigidity and devotion to duty was the very reason that Edward VIII opted for the happiness of a marriage to the woman he chose. A very enlightening book and a must for fans of history told in the form of a novel. 5 stars from me. Many thanks to the author and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.
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A life of duty and majesty.

May of Teck is such an interesting woman and makes a great subject for historical fiction.

Despite being a minor and relatively poor royal, May goes on to become Queen.

I loved May’s story. She develops as an intelligent and compassionate woman.

Living beyond their means, the Teck family move to Europe to save money. Taken to live in Florence, May grows up to appreciate art and culture , to read and a speak multiple languages.

As a princess, she should be an eligible bride, but remains unmarried when she returns to England.

Much to her surprise, May finds herself engaged to the heir to the throne, Prince Eddy. Putting her doubts about the role and her future aside to pledge her devotion to her future husband. The writer vividly imagines May’s struggles with her feelings as she falls in love and then mourns when her fiancé tragically dies of influenza.

May sense of duty means she accepts a proposal fromhis brother, George, Duke of York. George loves his quiet life shooting in Norfolk. Cold and distant, Mary struggles to find common ground with her new husband and a role in the Royal Family.

One of the most striking parts of May’s story is her relationship with her children. Securing the royal succession is the one thing that is expected of her. May suffers from post-natal depression and struggles to bond with her sons.

This is particularly poignant her eldest son, the future Edward VIII, abdicates. The epilogue to the book sees him reflecting on their relationship and returning for his mother’s funeral.

I really enjoyed this book. May of Teck is a member of the Royal Family that i didn’t know much about. And this book has inspired me to find out more.

My only criticism is the title of the book which doesn’t seem particularly relevant. I felt like it was shoehorned in at the end. I also think the cover image undersells the book. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but having read some great historical fiction with gorgeous covers recently I think this could definitely be more appealing.

This is a great and a fascinating recreation of the early life of Queen Mary. A lot of research has gone into the book and it is a great read.

Thank you to Netgalley for the digital copy in return for an honest review.
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I enjoyed this peek into the history of the Royal Family. May of Teck ends up marrying a stranger after Prince Eddy dies of the flu. In a way, I got a lot of Downton Abby vibes from this one. I am disappointed that this will not be published now until 2021.
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I'd like to express my appreciation to Fairlight Books and NetGalley for the e-galley and hours of much-needed reading enjoyment. *Due to limited power and hurricane damage, I'm forced to shorten my reviews. 

Valhalla is a legendary hall of fame; a place of high honor. May of Teck finds her Gloriana as Queen Mary. As Royals do, May's marriage is methodically matched. May is known as a smart, simple girl. Her posture is perfect. She is quiet and polite. Most importantly, she has good, strong hips - a requirement for breeding future heirs. May's lot in life may seem like a royal lottery to her parents, but I felt brokenhearted for the future Queen consort of George V, not to mention the children of these two - one being the abdicated King Edward VIII, and his overburdened brother, King George VI, future father of the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. 

While Clark devotes great attention to fact, <i>Valhalla</i> is a fictional account of what could have been occurring behind the privately guarded walls and halls of one of the most popular royal families to rule the United Kingdom. This is NOT a biography. Clark blends fact with fiction. The reader is permitted the facts and allowed to imagine feelings, private conversations, and possibilities. When May of Teck becomes the royal princess bride, all possibilities are lost to duty. No one understood royal obligation better than May. The real Queen Mary appeared stone cold. Clark breathes color and imagination into a rigid, privileged life.  

My thoughts: the halls of Valhalla may be filled with legendary heroes, and Gloriana herself, but they echo of longing and loneliness.
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#netgalley #valhalla

I have always been intrigued by the backstory of the Queen Mary and of her marriage.  I did learn a lot through this story and it was an enjoyable read.
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Maybe it's me, but historical fiction gets tricky when it's about someone well-known and well-documented. Given that historical fiction is my go-to, comfort genre in reading and that history is the place where I get sucked into the most rabbit holes and want to read all the things... this complicates my Reading Life in rather creative ways. As relates to VALHALLA by Alan Robert Clark, the British royal family is something I've read a lot about and still want to read more. And so I requested the chance to read this story of Princess Mary of Teck, later Queen Mary.

Queen Mary was someone I knew from reading history as the grandmother to Queen Elizabeth II, mother to the Duke of Windsor, fiancee of the prince who might have (but was not) Jack the Ripper, and a bit of a kleptomaniac. Simple facts and a public image that was carefully crafted, but not much more. And yet she has fascinated me since I first found her as a steadfast queen whose husband led England during World War I and buried her son, the next king, after World War II.

And I've wanted to know more.

I could have read a biography, I'm sure, but that's always a bit intimidating.

So VALHALLA fit the thing I wanted.

Three things matter most in historical fiction:

1) Sticking to historical fact and detail, not changing history to fit the story.
2) Making the conversations and interactions feel... possible in the part of history they are set in.
3) ~if about a real, well-known person~ Staying true to what is known and how the people are known to have behaved and carried on.

VALHALLA ticks each of those boxes.

As someone prone to falling down rabbit holes of research for fun, the events described in the novel follow with known history and no one has some sort of technology that they shouldn't.

Though there are not too many first-person written accounts of the lives of royalty in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, there is much contemporary fiction and the interactions between Mary (or May, as she was known to family and friends) and her family and staff feel very real and possible.

Queen Mary is known for putting duty first and above all else, and that carries through in the novel.

What Alan Robert Clark adds to the story is that May is and was a young girl and a young woman, with all the thoughts and feelings and desires that young women have. Born into a family that prized titles and prestige, her path was laid out early on and the way Clark describes how she might have struggled to adjust and adapt and even to abandon that which her heart desired is stunning.

And, perhaps most important of all, VALHALLA made me want to learn more... and I will.

(Thank you to Fairlight Books and NetGalley for the chance read this advance copy of VALHALLA. All thoughts expressed in this review are my own, and not influenced by anyone associated with the book.)
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Princess May Of Teck moves with her parents to Florence after they have fallen from grace within the English royal family. The serious May likes Florence and the company of painter Henry Thaddeus Jones. After their return to England, Queen Victoria wants May to marry Eddie, her grandson and second in line to the throne. Against all odds, Eddie and May become fond of each other. But when Eddie suddenly dies of the flu, May's future becomes unsecure. 

I must admit I didn't know anything of Queen Mary's life before I read this novel. My knowledge of the British royal family stops at Queen Victoria, apart from the current's queen of course :). So Valhalla gave me a nice insight in the young May Of Teck and the formidable woman she would later become. 

This is a story about love and duty. And the longing for freedom of a young woman not able to make her own choices. It's about the sad loss of a prince and how it can torn a whole family apart.

I feel I now have a better understanding of Mary Of Teck's young life, although some of the elements in the novel are fictional or only based on rumors (her love interests for example). Mary is often seen as an ice-queen alongside her husband George V. In this book you get to know the young couple and how they try to keep up appearances. I had hoped to learn more about Georgie's character and the king he would be. 

At first the writing style didn't really grip me. I just couldn't always follow who said what. Halfway the book, I felt a connection with May and I just wanted to know how her story would end. At that point, I was used to the writing and I enjoyed the book a lot.

The title 'Valhalla' is only explained in the last chapter. I believe it would have worked out better if it had been mentioned earlier in the book. Now it felt a bit artificial. 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher to provide me a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.


This review will be published at and Goodreads on October 21st.
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I've never read a historical fiction book about Mary of Teck before and I greatly enjoyed Valhalla. From her first engagement to her eventual marriage to Prince George, this work follows a very interesting life and story.
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Valhalla: A story of love and duty by Alan Robert Clarke

My impression of Queen Mary has always been that of an imposing but austere, cold and rather forbidding figure, fixed in my mind as an elderly and severe woman. So, it was a real pleasure to have that view challenged and to see her complex character delightfully teased out in this interpretation by Alan Robert Clark. 

Valhalla tells the tale of Mary of Teck, a minor royal whose looked down upon family feel redeemed and excited beyond measure when May is chosen to marry Prince Eddy, the heir to the throne. Although May has her reservations, she has been brought up to put duty above all else and agrees to the match. But when Eddy dies suddenly, May is expected to marry his younger brother, the cold, domineering and rather foolish, George, and her commitment to duty above love and personal fulfillment is tested to the limit.

This fascinating book does not deal with the severe older Queen Mary of popular memory, instead it recreates the early life of the girl who went on to become the formidable Queen Mary, consort of King George V, mother of the notorious Edward Vlll who married Wallis Simpson, and grandmother of our present Queen. 
It shows us a young woman who wants to know the world, who dreams of a more intellectual, passionate and interesting life and who hopes to find love, but who eventually gives all this up to undertake her royal responsibilities and fulfil her family duty. 

Reading this book brings Queen Mary to life in a way that challenges the traditional interpretation of this impressive Queen.  It shows the private sadness and regrets behind the public face of royal duty. It is a sad story, beautifully told, and crying out to be made into a movie.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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