This is going to be a short review, because I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and the pithy things I might have said are no longer fresh in my mind.
The King’s Touch is told in the first person by Jemmy (James, Duke of Monmouth), the best-known bastard son of Charles II. It covers his life from his childhood with his beautiful, unstable mother to his decision to lead his rebellion against James II. Though Jemmy’s military adventures play a part in this novel, this is by no means an action-packed tale. Nor is it concerned chiefly with the politics of the age, though they of course play an important background role. Rather, the focus is on Jemmy’s relationships, most especially with his enigmatic father
Having been reading some other bloggers’ thoughts about reviewing, it’s struck me that my favorable reviews tend to be similar to each other: I praise the author’s characterizations and writing style. That’s no accident, because character to me is what the essence of novel writing is about; if I can’t connect with the people in a novel on some level, the novel doesn’t work for me. So having said that, you’ll not be surprised to hear that I enjoyed The King’s Touch chiefly for its characters. They’re vivid and memorable, particularly Charles II and Jemmy himself.
Morgan’s writing style is also a treat: elegant yet unfussy, and full of little gems like this comment about Jemmy’s grandmother, Queen Henrietta Maria, who’s just been told by Charles that he wants Jemmy raised as a Protestant:
My grandmother sat down tragically. (I cannot give a clear idea of tragical sitting-down, but my grandmother could manage it.)
The dialogue here sparkles, and is appropriate to the characters, some of the best lines being too bawdy to quote on this blog. Here’s a random sample from Jemmy’s cousin Mary, who’s not looking forward to her wedding day:
“Then I am very well. But I am not, of course. It is not true, by the by, that I wept two days together after Father told me I was to marry Prince William. It was only a day and a half.”
This was a great read. Pick it up.