Reviewed by Colleen Turner

At a time when it seemed a well-to-do young woman’s only real responsibilities were to marry well, have children and create a loving home for her family, Jane Lane defied all odds to go after the life she wanted, no matter the consequences. A truly inspiring woman, she rose from an average English country girl to a woman admired across England as the savior of their King. But her story is also bursting with danger, deprivation and sadness. For just because you give your all in search of what you want doesn’t mean you are guaranteed your happily ever after.

At twenty-five, Jane is unmarried and still living at home in the English countryside of Staffordshire. While she loves her family she is bored by the quiet yet beautiful life around her and longs desperately for some adventure. The prospect of marriage holds little appeal to her as well as the suitors she has had do not illicit the romance and passion she reads about in her father’s books. They can give her stability and safety, but what can they do for her heart and mind?

With England in an uproar since Parliament, led by the overreaching Oliver Cromwell, killed King Charles I and refused to acknowledge the current heir, Charles II, as King, Jane’s world has become even more restrained and lackluster. Only the prospect of visiting her married friend who is about to give birth nearly 100 miles away brings a glint of enjoyment to her mind.

When the Lanes get word that the King is attempting to amass a large army to fight his way back into England and onto his rightful throne, her brothers are ready to go to the King’s side. The King is unsuccessful, however, and must go into hiding and get out of England as soon as possible or face his certain death. As long-standing Royalists, the Lanes are soon enlisted to help in this cause and the perfect plan is created: the King shall accompany Jane as her serving man on her trip to visit her friend, at which time he will be near the coast and able to escape to France. This is what Jane has been waiting for: adventure, excitement and the chance to leave behind the sleepy countryside and see what else the world has to offer.

So begins the adventure of Jane’s life, one that is not only full of excitement but so much danger and sadness. The journey takes them through harsh terrain and weather, often times with little food or shelter, let alone the prospect of death if they are caught in assisting the King in his escape. And when a passionate romance develops between Jane and Charles she also gives her entire heart to a man she can ultimately never have, a man who proves to be far from loyal to her. By the end of Jane’s big adventure, one that spans an entire decade, she will have given all, even her youth and her family while in exile from England, for Charles II, the man she loves and the King she cannot have. When it is all said and done, was all the sacrifice worth it for her part in history?

The September Queen introduced me to a portion of history and people I had previously read little about. The book does a wonderful job of developing these characters into relatable and understandable people. Jane, for one, is incredibly spunky and brave and, even when she makes odd choices and gives so much of herself in ways most people would never do, she presents her choices in such a clear manner that you can completely understand why she does it. The majority of the characters are very likeable and even those that are less so are given enough time to show why they make the choices they do. It is not hard to picture yourself right beside Jane and her compatriots and to get a full view of the people they are.

The plot is also well developed which, in the mood I was in when reading The September Queen, became a little too much at times. The reader feels the time as they go alone with Jane on the long journeys across England and then for years in exile, time dragging on and on with a lot of the same landscape to look at and nothing much else going on for long periods. I believe I would have enjoyed a little more jumping to the key points and a little less of the day to day hardship, but that could just be me.

The September Queen is a wonderful introduction for anyone who isn’t familiar with the Royal Miracle of Charles II’s battle for his throne or the people who helped him get there, or an enjoyable story for those already familiar. It is engaging and does a solid job of presenting not only the excitement of the adventure but the sacrifices they all had to make, including the King. It has definitely peaked my interest to learn more about the time period and I’m excited to now read Gillian Bagwell’s first book, The Darling Strumpet, which discusses another of King Charles II’s love interests, Nell Gwynn.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Berkley Trade. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.