Rebecca Dean on Wallis Simpson in The Shadow Queen

Though I didn’t know it at the time, The Shadow Queen began life four years ago when I was writing a novel in which the setting was London high society in the 1930’s. In this novel my Virginian-born heroine attended a party. Speculating as to the guest list, it occurred to me it would be fun to include Wallis (whose maternal family were also Virginians) and who was, at the time, the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales. That was all I intended. A short scene enlivened by Wallis, the quintessential party-girl. She became a little more in Palace Circle, but not much more, for with my interest piqued I began reading everything I could about her. Very little of it was complimentary and no salacious accusation was too bizarre. But what was true and what was rumor?

A walk-on part had never satisfied the real Wallis, and a walk-on part for her in Palace Circle didn’t satisfy me, for beneath her demonized image I had glimpsed a far different woman; one who had grown up with, and surmounted, huge social difficulties; one who always made the best of appalling, and often abusive, circumstances.

The more I read about her, the more I liked her. She had guts and I became convinced that her reputation of being a hard-hearted, scheming opportunist was nothing more than the result of politically motivated character-assassination carried out by palace officials and government ministers at the time of the abdication.

I wanted to redress the balance and show a far different Wallis, the Wallis who existed before she stepped into the pages of history and had her character so cruelly maligned. The Wallis who, as a child, struggled with the opposites of having been born into an illustrious family and yet, because of her father’s early death, lived on an uncle’s charity, unable to take anything – even clothes and schooling – for granted. When she was sixteen her uncle announced he wished to adopt her and make her heir to his vast fortune. There was only one condition. She must never enter her mother’s home again. Though Wallis must have longed to live the kind of life Sol Warfield could offer her and which she had, after all, been born into, she flatly refused. Loyal – not hard-hearted, scheming, or opportunistic – was the word her Baltimore friends used about her. I found this quality, together with her irrepressible sassiness and her refusal to let life get the better of her, deeply compelling.

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Through Cinderella-like years with far more privileged cousins in Baltimore, through a first marriage to a man who beat her, leaving her hog-tied to their bed while he went out on drunken binges, through years of living by her wits and her poker-playing in places as diverse as Washington and Shanghai, Wallis learned how to be a survivor. She crept into my heart, often surprising me, ceaselessly amusing me, always fascinating me. My hope is that readers will agree that, even before she met Edward, Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson was quite a gal.

  • nylne

    I would love to read this!

  • becky

    This sounds like a great book – adding it to me “to read” list 🙂

  • Ruthie S

    An interesting woman whom I would like to know more about.

  • renee reff

    edward must have really loved wallace, or he was in great fear of being king. i prefer to believe in the love story, she was a brillant woman and she loved him too.

  • vickie wilkerson

    would love to read this book.
    thank you

  • Julie

    I am intrigued. I can’t wait to uncover all the forgotten details of a great love story like this.

  • Sue Wendt

    Interesting couple. Would like to read this book.

  • N J Gill

    So many first-hand real-life memoirs have reiterated that she was a cold, shallow woman who first believed Edward VIII could command his kingdom to accept her as queen, then recoiled from his abdication – after all, she wanted to marry a KING, not a nobleman. People who knew her in London, in Europe before the war, in Bermuda and the US during and after the war, have written extensive and less-than-flattering descriptions of her behavior and character – hard to believe a novel will re-make the world’s opinion of her.

  • Monja Blue

    I like the premise & backstory for this intriguing book!

  • Sara truax

    Great reading

  • Patricia Gibbs

    I would really love to read this book. Please pick me!! Thank you for this giveaway and promoting more reading.

  • Kris

    Fascinating story from recent history. Can’t wait to read it!

  • Pam Alley

    Pick me!

  • sheri

    I love to read!

  • Angie

    I would love to read this book!

  • Patti D

    Yes! Sounds like a great book…which is now on my “to be read list”

  • Janet H

    I have always been fascinated by this woman – want this book! Thank you – Janet

  • Suzanne Chaply

    Sounds intriguing. I would love to get a copy!

  • alissa

    would love to read this! 🙂

  • Jana

    This sounds interesting!

  • Jodi

    Please enter me in this drawing. Thanks

  • Sarah

    Very interesting story.

  • Nicole Orcutt

    This book sounds great.. would love to read it.

  • GbeeK

    Would enjoy reading this novel!

  • Maksie

    This would be an interesting read-an alternate perspective of a woman that impacted modern history.

  • Amber Rairdan

    Interesting should be a good read

  • Darlenee

    Sounds like a good story. Love and history all in one book! Can’t get much better. I would love to read this book.

  • Catherine Baseleon

    Sounds like a good read!

  • maryanne

    Sounds like a good read

  • Misty Kluba

    Officially added to my reading list. This sounds very intriguing!

  • Pam Brouillard

    I would love to read this book. Thank you for a wonderful selection and a great contest>

  • Andrea

    Can’t wait to read this!!!

  • Misty

    Would LOVE to read this!

  • nancy r

    just moved to new location in Beaufort SC almost all my books are in boxes, in storage. HELP !! I need a book to read for a break from unpacking!
    THX in advance!

  • Helen

    Sounds so interesting…would love to read!

  • Anne Joyce

    This sounds like a fascinating read and I would love to receive a copy!

  • Tracy

    i love story’s about this period in time

  • PM

    The Shadow Queen should be a thought provoking read…

  • Connie

    Already on my To Be Read…soon list!

  • Susan

    Yes, I would enjoy reading it.

  • Sandi

    Would love to read this book!!!

  • Tami Bianco

    I would LOVE to read this book! Hope I am one of the winners!

  • Crystal Trent Dotson

    Sounds very entertaining, hope to have the chance to read & review it .

  • ShawneeB

    This book sounds like a great read. Can’t wait to get my hands on it.

  • Rachel M

    This looks like a fascinating read. Definately going on my to-read list.

  • Jen

    definitely something I’m looking forward to reading

  • Karen Mwins

    Sounds great!

  • Debbie

    This sounds like a fascinating story, I would like to read this book.

  • Bradley cox

    awesome

  • Kat Tedder

    I would love to read this. What about that era attracts you to write about it?

  • Erin

    Sounds like a great book!

  • NJGill

    Sorry – it’s a well-written book, but it didn’t convince me that Wallis’ life experiences made her anything other than the grasping, calculating schemer that history has most frequently described. Not hard to understand why – it was a life full of horrible events, but there didn’t seem to be any effort to transcend them, to be better than the people who were subjecting her to those horrors. And Edward/David seemed to be a petulant case of arrested development whose unfitness to be King was recognized by his own father long before he (George V) died, and who made no attempt to bring needed changes gradually to the Crown, but simply threw a tantrum whenever he did not get his own way.

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