Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper

Charlotte Bill has been newly hired as an assistant nanny for the children of the Duke and Duchess of York.  The Duke is the grandson of Queen Victoria, and her young charges are the future heirs of the throne of England.  Charlotte, or Lala as she is fondly called by her young charges, finds that the children are living under a heavy hand of terror from the head nanny.  She helps to comfort them and raise them, becoming more of a mother than the mother they see for one hour each day.  Along the way, Charlotte also has to decide, what does she want in life?  Does she want to have romance and a family of her own, or does she want to remain the stable figure in her young charges’ lives?

I found The Royal Nanny to be fascinating and compelling.  Lala loves the children and tries to give them the love that they are missing in their everyday lives from their parents. I loved the daily routines of the royal family.  I also loved learning more about the children who would one day become King Edward VIII and George VI.  Their treatment and personalities as children were intriguing and made me want to watch the excellent film The King’s Speech again to bring the story to when they had grown up.  I also loved how Edward VIII’s (otherwise known as David) personality mimicked that of his fun and woman loving grandfather, Edward VII.  I also loved the other children, especially Prince John.  Johnny was born with special needs and Lala was there to love him as he couldn’t be loved or displayed by his royal family.  Johnny’s story and all of the children’s stories were sad to me, particularly when they are separated from their core family.

I loved Lala’s story and her inner turmoil as she longs for forbidden love from groundskeeper Chad.  I thought she was a strong character who was able to fully assert herself in her role as the Nanny and to help the children she loved best, but also to have feelings and longings outside of that realm.

The Royal Nanny is perfect for readers missing Downton Abbey.  It starts before Downton Abbey, but goes through the years through the Great War.  It also is a great story of the relationships developed between the royal family and the people who served them.  I especially liked the side story of the Russian Tsar Nicholas’s family and their beloved English nanny.  I also loved how the story showed the complex family relationships during WWI with English, Germany, and Russia ruled by cousins.

The Royal Nanny hit a little too close to home as I finished reading it last week.  There is a tragedy that mirrored a personal one experienced by my best friend last week.  Needless to say, there was a line that started one of the last chapters that pierced my heart.  I thought the chapter before was a bit melodramatic until my best friend experienced it herself. 

I enjoyed the extras at the end of the novel including a fascinating author’s note on the real history (one of my favorite parts of this novel!), and book club questions.

My favorite quotes:

“’Bothers me a bit, though,’ she confided, lowering her voice, ‘that if Their Highnesses pass by in the hall, we’re to turn our faces to the wall and stay still – mostly never to be seen.’” – I find this behavior to be both strange and fascinating.

“Though I kept my hand on Johnnie’s arm, I turned to look closer at Chad’s Penelope.  In the flickering firelight from the hearth, it was as if a little angel had come to greet us.  She had curly, white blond hair, wide blue eyes, and a guileless face.” – This description sounds like my daughter Penelope.

“Was it true that the hand that rocks the cradle rule the world?”

Overall, The Royal Nanny was a captivating novel that I couldn’t put down.  It was a very interesting historical fiction novel into a glimpse of the royal family history that I didn’t know much about.  It had a great setting at Sandringham castle and absorbing characters.  I highly recommend it, especially if you are a Downton Abbey fan.

Book Source:  A review copy from William Morrow.  Thank-you!


  1. Laura,
    As usual, you've posted a lovely, well-written review. This novel sounds fascinating. I am a huge fan of Downton Abbey, and I think I'd enjoy this story as well. I enjoyed your favorite quotes.

    1. This is a great read for Downton Abbey fanes. I love the behind the scenes of what it takes to run a large household.

  2. I am so sorry for your friend, Laura. Isn't it interesting how books sometimes do that to us--remind us so much of something that is going on in or around our lives right in that moment? This sounds like a great book. I'll have to look for it.

    1. It is very interesting. I had been camping with my sons without the book and drove off to Michigan for my friend's emergency, picked the book up again and read a line that made my heart stop as it was exactly what had happened to my friend. Amazing how books reflect real life!

  3. I picked this one up recently. Sounds like a good one.