A review by Nalini Haynes
While dodging her ex and working, Maggie Moore spends her days and nights with the 50-something friends of her father. Or reading history books. Passionately. How can you be passionate about a history book, you ask. She notates the books. No library books for her! Especially not the secret ancient library in the Tower…
Maggie becomes friends with the Grenadiers’ platoon? Regiment? Troop? I’m sure Clawson used the right word but I’m sitting here in Merrymen café with my flat white but the caffeine obviously isn’t firing the synapses sufficiently. I might need another. Another coffee AND another book.
Maggie is a slightly chubby woman at 5’9” and 12 stone. Her ginger hair is untamable and frizzy. She’s a working class girl with an ex-military father whose semi-retirement consists of working as a Beefeater while living in the Tower.
It is REFRESHING to read a romance/romcom about a working class girl instead of the aristocracy, a guardsman instead of a prince. More please!
Unlike most “I’m so fat” protagonists, she’s not a size 4 or whatever the “going” size is in America these days. She’s unfit: her “best” exercise is running through the Tower, late for work on the ticket counter. Her ex is a stalkery negging type who gaslit her for 7 years while disposing of all her friends. And she drinks waaaay too much. OMG. I tried to imagine myself drinking that much in a single evening, let alone in an ongoing way. Wow.
Anyway, she’s mostly relatable. Readers will relate different aspects of her character .
Anyhoo, the group of Grenadiers and some of the permanent residents of the Tower hail from different minorities. They’re various shades of human, I think one or two might have acquired disabilities prior to becoming eligible for Beefeater status but they still work in the military in the Tower. (Or I *might* be confusing Falling Hard for the Royal Guard with my current read, The Luminaries. Not 100% sure. But I’m pretty sure…)
And the Raven Master is an ancient woman whose last posting was in a military hospital in Afghanistan. So she’s haunted. As is the Tower.
Wired-type journos (like Brandon Sanderson’s journo) would disparage the Raven Master for Clawson’s use of tropes. However, I love her. Deeply and passionately. (Not that kind of love, ew!) Suffice to say she fits a Jungian archetype or two. But she also grows as a character and causes character growth in the protagonist.
Maggie is in recovery and hiding from her gaslighting ex. But her new friends in the royal guard challenge her to go on 5 dates. They even polish her appalling Tinder profile. Let the hijinks begin.
And. What. Hijinks. They. Are.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again: if by some chance I end up single, I’m staying single. Not getting out there, NOT EVER AGAIN.
Falling Hard For The Royal Guard is hilarious but also highly cringey in places.
Also it’s a good read for anyone considering using the Tinders or other apps. There are precautions to take to improve safety.
Oh, and did I mention the secrets?
There are secrets. Lots of times I eye-roll at manufactured conflicts or conflicts with manufactured magic wands for resolutions. I love Clawson’s conflict and resolution. No cheating. All romantic. 100% heart melting. Would recommend.
Falling Hard For The Royal Guard is a romantic comedy. It excels in this area. But it’s also a lesson in history (light) and an education in the current workings of the Tower of London. Amazing. I learnt HEAPS. While enjoying this story. Whether Clawson writes more romcoms or delves into historical fiction or whatever, I AM HERE FOR IT.
Read Falling Hard For The Royal Guard if you liked Is Somebody Out There by Marion Keyes (Maggie’s relationship with her Mum – kinda); Jane Austen; Shaun Of The Dead; World’s End… I forgot to mention that Maggie discusses responses to the zombie apocalypse. What is not to love about this book and this author???
Fact vs fiction in this novel
Maggie Moore lives in the Tower of London.
“Impossible!” you cry.
“So does the author. Live there I mean,” I reply smugly, with my brand new education in all things regarding this famous tower.
Like her protagonist, Megan Clawson lived there with her parents and now with her husband because, like her FICTIONAL protagonist, she too has experienced falling hard for the royal guard.
Clawson explicitly denies any allusion to biography and explicitly denies basing any of her glorious characters on real people. “That would diminish my friends,” she says, or words to that effect.
And yet her inside knowledge ensures accuracy in her depiction of this historical landmark. Her protagonist also shares some of her traits: her love of Jane Austen, her preference for the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice, her love of history and this historical monument and its inhabitants.
I checked my opinions on twitter.
I tweeted: @meganambxr You lost me at Matthew Macfadyen. No way! Colin Firth‘s is the best Pride and Prejudice!
Megan: I’m sorry but that is a hill I’m willing to die on haha! I love the 1995 P&P but Macfadyen just has that anxiousness that sells him for me! Colin Firth as Darcy in Bridget Jones however…
Me: Weeeell maybe I need to give it a go. To me Firth is the definitive Darcy but, tbh, I haven’t watched your version. I was all “how can they PRETEND to get that book into JUST ONE MOVIE???” and besides Knightley was in EVERYTHING at the time or so it seemed and I was tired of her.
Megan: 1995 is arguably the best adaptation just in how close it is to the book! And the 95 Lizzie is also my favourite! But the film is so beautiful! Definitely give it a watch if you find yourself at a loose end!!
Me: I’ll have to now, even if only to add a little flavour to my review of your book!
I admit I haven’t watched it yet. It slipped my mind between doctors’ appointments and a trip to Emergency but I’m on the mend now so I really should watch it if only to confirm my opinion, heh heh.
Checking my opinion
Partly because I haven’t watched Megan’s favorite version and partly because, ever since The Pile On of March-May 2021, I am very nervous about airing my opinions, I took a poll.
Best version of Pride and Prejudice
— Dark Matter Zine (@DarkMatterzine) March 26, 2023
The comments in reply were great. There were 2 votes for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (review here), which I wanted to include but Twitter’s poll limit didn’t allow. And Steve Glover said the best version he’d seen was a live musical version that isn’t available online/streaming or as video apparently. Sad now. But Steve also recommended Lost In Austen, a tv series I admit I haven’t seen. I must. While recovering I’ve been watching dramedy on tv, which has given me a much-needed break. Now I’m ready to spread my wings again, even if a bit cautiously.
ISBN: 9780008554415 (USA)
ISBN10: 0008554412 (USA)
ISBN: 9780008554422 (Australia)
ISBN10: 0008554420 (Australia)
Imprint: Avon (HarperCollins)
Released: April 27 or May 2, 2023, depending where you live.
Format: I read the ebook. 384 pages
Category: romance, romantic comedy