I’m thrilled to welcome Q. Kelly to I Heart Lesfic.
She’s giving away 3 copies of Knowing Katharine to 3 lucky winners. More details are below.
Please welcome Q. Kelly.
Knowing Elizabeth and Knowing Katharine
Love them, hate them or don’t care about them, odds are you know who the queen of England and her family members are. To name a sprinkling, there’s Philip, Charles, Camilla, William, Kate, Harry (and soon, Meghan).
The British royals have always been good people to speculate and gossip about. But what do we really know about them? It depends. For example, we know quite a bit about Charles’s views and to some degree, William’s and Harry’s. But what about Elizabeth herself? The queen is perhaps the most famous woman in the world, yet we know precious little about her as a person. She’s not supposed to reveal her political leanings or to express strong preferences for many things, lest she offend someone.
We do know that she loves horses and dogs. She loves saving money, and she may prioritize country over family (for example, forbidding her sister Margaret to marry a divorced man. Elizabeth is also allegedly reluctant to give up the crown like other European monarchs do because of the abdication scandal that threw her life into upheaval when she was a girl).
Only earlier this year did she give her first media interview. If you watch the Netflix show The Crown, you may even notice that while characters such as Philip are fleshed out well, the queen remains largely self-contained (I’m not sure if producers are hesitant to take artistic guesses while she is alive or if this is, more or less, how she was).
I’ve wondered sometimes if it’s possible for anyone to truly know the queen. Probably not. Heck, we don’t ever truly know most of the people in our lives, but with the queen, we have even less information to go on.
That’s kind of how I approached the novel Knowing Katharine. Here we have the heir to the British throne, who is 20 and in her junior year at Purcell College in Maine (a fictional college). For her as it is for many others, being a high-ranking royal makes for a lonely life. It’s compounded in her case because she’s struggling with her sexuality. She knows that being heir/queen and an out lesbian isn’t possible without throwing Britain into a tailspin.
For sure, the royal family is way behind when it comes to social norms. For example, a reigning king and queen might not be able to divorce. It’s not really been tested except for the Henry VIII “experiments,” and that led to a new religion and the killings of innocent women and men. It was a struggle for Charles, heir to the throne, and Diana to divorce, although divorce is more acceptable the lower down the line you go and has become tolerable only fairly recently. Queen Elizabeth’s uncle had to give up his throne because he wanted to marry a divorced woman, and the people who mattered in Britain wouldn’t have it.
Also, Prince Harry is soon to marry a biracial woman, Meghan Markle, and that’s gotten its share of criticism too. Can you imagine if he was the heir?
Being a royal could be glamorous and fun if you didn’t have disabilities, if you happened to be 100 percent straight and were lucky enough to find a socially acceptable person to fall head over heels in love with and build the perfect marriage and family with and so on and so on…
Back to Knowing Katharine. The novel is told from several points of view, largely those of Katharine’s love interests (or potential love interests) in addition to her mother, the queen consort Amalia. Each person has something different to contribute to the puzzle of, “Who is this young woman set to rule England one day?” but they’re all looking in from the outside. Just as we are with Elizabeth. It’s entirely possible that growing up with such a regimented lifestyle, many royals have a limited understanding of who they truly are.
One of the Amazon reviews on the book summarizes what I was hoping to convey:
I have mixed feelings about this book. Here’s why.
The main character, Katherine, the 21-year old crown princess and future queen of England, is desperately lonely even when surrounded by many, many people. The guards, servants, and suck-ups that are constantly present do not fill the emptiness of her life. And, she’s hiding a secret – she’s a lesbian.
Her parents, the king and queen, want her to be straight. Insist that she is straight. Demand that she is straight and marry an appropriate man with whom she will produce heirs to the throne. Duty over personal interests and happiness.
What this leaves is a well-told story that is both quirky and hauntingly sad (because of Katherine’s interpersonal struggles and mind-numbing isolation). As readers, we stand outside of Katherine’s life and gawk just as everyone else.
A thought provoking read that will leave your heart just a bit empty.
Being a royal isn’t all glamour and glitz, but the tide does seem to be changing. If there are any current or future kings or queens who are gay, they hopefully can come out and be themselves in relative peace.
Knowing Katharine is the first book in a three-book series (a fourth may come out sometime, no promises). In the second book, Loving Katharine, we do get to read from Katharine’s perspective some, and as she grows older and more confident, she comes to embrace her role and take true joy in it. I think that Elizabeth, too, loves being queen in her own way. She lives to serve her people. She willingly and happily makes the sacrifices she has to, even at the personal cost it requires. (The third book is titled Marrying Emma.)
Katharine, this young woman at Purcell College across the pond from Britain, has a big choice to make. Come out of the closet and be true to herself, or stay in the closet and find an unique path to happiness if such a thing is possible? Good thing she has at least one special woman in her life who puts Katharine first before Britain.
Tessa Donovan is a New York City cop tired of pounding the streets, tired of the long hours, tired of the wrecked relationship with the woman she used to love. So, when Cliff Sandings with the Royal Protection Command approaches her for a job opportunity, she jumps at the chance.
Her task: going deep undercover, including a new name, to protect Britain’s Katharine Anne Elizabeth Amalia, heir to the throne. Katharine is entering her junior year at Purcell College in Maine. She won’t let a near-successful assassination attempt deter her plans to live as normally as possible.
Tessa (undercover name Trisha) moves into a dorm room near Katharine’s, and the security officer quickly learns that protecting Katharine is tricky. Not necessarily because of physical threats but because lust gets in the way. Plus there is the fact that Katharine is poised to be the future queen of England, and an out lesbian relationship with her is all but impossible. There’s also another lesbian in the picture, the persistent Joyce Thomas, and Trisha can’t help but be drawn to her too.
Will Trisha succeed in getting to know the true Katharine, or will it be one of the other women in Katharine’s life? Does anyone truly get to know her?
And what about the woman who fantasizes about ending the lives of Katharine and her father, the king?
MEET THE AUTHOR
Fact One: I like corny jokes. If you have any good ones, send them my way!
Fact Two: My favorite color is purple, but my writing is gray. Life is not black and white. I often write about issues and characters where there is no “right” answer.
Fact Three: I’m weird. I like being weird.
Yeah, that’s me in a nutshell. If I was small enough to fit in a nutshell, anyway.
I’m a writer. I have a bunch of books out and lots more to come (I hope). Most recently, “Wicked Things,” an anthology in which I have a story, won a Goldie award. Also, “Third” was named a Lambda Literary Award finalist and was named a Goldie finalist. In late 2012, “Waiting” and “Third” won Rainbow Awards. Also, “The Old Woman and Other Lesbian Stories” won a 2011 Lesbian Fiction Readers Choice Award. “Strange Bedfellows” also won two Rainbow Awards. “The Odd Couple” was a finalist for the GCLS debut author award. See this page for a list of all my books. I’m also an indie writer and loving it. This blog basically chronicles my indie experience and keeps y’all up to date on my projects. I throw in random stuff once in a while.
CONNECT WITH Q. KELLY
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Thanks so much for stopping by today.
Best of luck to everyone who enters the giveaway.