Book: Floreat Queenie by Carolyn Steele
Reviewer: Jeriann and Bethany
Age/Genre: Adult Political Fiction/Satire
Preferred Reading Environment: Next to a Christmas Tree and a roaring fire
Reading Accoutrements: Some hot tea of course! A Japanese variety if you want to join Queenie in her new obsession!
Content Notes: There are Queenie’s Teapot spoilers in this review. Don’t worry, we won’t spoil anything from Floreat Queenie…much 😉
It’s pretty obvious where we heard about Floreat Queenie since we posted a review of Queenie’s Teapot last month. This is the second book in The Queenie Chronicles by Carolyn Steele.
We thought this would be the perfect time to review Floreat Queenie because it starts off right at Christmas. The chaos of the past year is seemingly subsiding, when Queenie accidentally manufactures some political drama by swearing during her televised Christmas announcement. This is then used by some shady characters with political motives to mobilize religious zealots into protesting the government.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Gordon Morrow, bitter about the deceptions of the publicized version of last year’s events, semi-accidentally causes the truth to be leaked to the press. This causes widespread panic as well as distrust at the government for their lies.
Jeriann: We both really liked the character of Caroline in the last book, but I think she especially shines here. She navigates the fact that her charges are gaining confidence in their roles, trying to balance helping them out without being overbearing. She also has to deal with some romantic interests from some of the male ministers. I thought this plot point was addressed really well- keeping it lighthearted, while also showing the ways women in positions of power have to approach unwanted advances. Caroline doesn’t want to outright reject men under her charge, because they become difficult to work with. I didn’t love the solution she came up with, but I do think it shines a light on a relatable issue.
Bethany: Agreed! I am actually surprised that Gerald becomes a bit more human in this book, too. For some reason, I thought Steele would hold out his secrets until the end, but I really enjoyed the way she built up to his reveal. He spends a good portion of the initial drama with Queenie’s language out-of-the-picture, as he’s on his annual mysterious vacation. As he jumps back into the fray, Gerald’s decisions come into question when Gordon Morrow calls him out for his manipulation of the people. While he deals with that issue, he allows Minnow to handle another problem – and Minnow is not the best at dealing with people – which leads to another leak to plug. Basically, Gerald’s ability to make mistakes comes to the attention of the reader in a big way in this book. It made me like him more, since about halfway through the first book, I figured there was a 50 percent chance that, by the end of the series, it would come out that Gerald was a pre-programmed robot.
Queenie’s Teapot introduced us to a large cast and then only focused on a few of the characters. Floreat Queenie shifts focus to some of those characters who were in the background of the first book. Gordon Morrow and Chief Minister Home Office Clayton Brown feature prominently. Steele rotates the focus of characters based on whose job is most relevant to the main plot. Even Queenie takes a backseat for a minute.
Jeriann: In our review of the first book, I mentioned that Minnow and Sammy were my favorite characters. In Floreat Queenie, we see them working together in the background (Sammy has unofficially become a member of the Cabinet Support Team), trying to decode messages and determine the nefarious plot at hand. We even see them semi-severely mess up by focusing on the wrong angle when they could be pursuing different paths to find the culprit faster. I love their dynamic, and how Minnow is shown to be growing more comfortable with people now that he has someone who he is close to. Of course, he still makes some social gaffes, because even a smart, nerdy woman can’t “fix” a man overnight.
Bethany: Speaking of old characters in new relationships, Doug Sideworth and Sally Farnham have gotten closer since the end of the first book. In fact, Floreat Queenie starts with Doug and Sally celebrating the holiday together with her children. These two were an odd match for me, considering how bitter Sally was about the end of her first marriage and how…alcoholic…Doug was about the death of his first wife. The two seemed to be comforting to each other, although I wasn’t sure how much of their relationship was just to distract themselves from their individual pain; Sally seemed to take a caretaker role with Doug that was similar to his wife’s, while Doug filled the loneliness void for Sally and neither appeared to be dealing with their respective bitterness or grief. Then, about halfway into the book, they have a fight.
Jeriann: I thought Sally and Doug’s fight was expertly handled. Doug says something that Sally takes offense to, so they storm off separately to stew in isolation. In the following days, they both reflect and seem to accept that though the other upset them, it wasn’t done out of malice. Neither really gives up their position, but they are able to move past the conflict in a mature way.
Floreat Queenie continues to point out the flaws of democracy, while also showing that no system of government is perfect. The “handlers” spend most of this book being distrusted by the appointed representatives. In the end though, their experience is usually valuable, and their instincts aren’t far off-base.
Bethany: I was a little bit irritated by the amount of flack the “handlers” received from the appointed representatives when things went wrong. Queenie decided to go off-script for the Christmas speech and Caroline got a bunch of the blowback for that – even after the drama it created was determined to be manufactured by ne’er-do-wells. The representatives made the final decision to keep a secret from the public, yet Gerald is stuck with the blame for that decision – especially in Gordon Morrow’s mind.
Another great feature of The Queenie Chronicles is the focus on how individuals can affect nationwide and even global issues, as well as be affected by them. Gordon Morrow’s unwanted American guest (his daughter’s boyfriend) basically causes nationwide panic on a whim. We also get more insight into one of the district representatives from the first book, Dolores. Her family continues to be caught up in large political issues, which forces her to analyze her thoughts and opinions on how the government works. She doesn’t change her mind overnight, but she’s willing to admit when people are doing their best with what they have.
Queenie’s teapot actually makes a couple of important appearances in this book, too. Although, the teapot is not as prevalent as it was in the first book. Initially, Queenie relied on her teapot to feel more comfortable in her new position; she now feels confident in her ability to interact with people and even help Caroline in her job of checking in on the other representatives. The title, Floreat Queenie, is roughly translated to “Queenie Blooms.” Queenie’s confidence has blossomed and she is reaping the benefits in her personal relationships. It has even, by default, made her a mostly successful politician.
Jeriann: I love how Queenie solves problems by simply being herself. She doesn’t care much for decorum or structured routine. Because people are so used to slow-moving bureaucracy, her candid-ness and quickness to do what she perceives as the right thing is refreshing. She often disarms people who want to be angry with her and the government. Even as she gets better at her job, her personality doesn’t change.
Bethany: Because of the large cast and multiple plot lines, I sometimes forget that Queenie is the hero of this tale – otherwise why would the books be named after her? Which reminds me…I wonder what Queenie will do in the third book…Why don’t we have a title yet? I want to speculate!
As we read Floreat Queenie, we did notice a few recurring errors of punctuation and other typos. Basically, there were some mildly distracting mistakes that could cause some frustration to the overly grammar-minded reader. It’s nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a tight edit, and it never pulled us completely out of the story.
We can’t wait to see what will happen next in The Queenie Chronicles! Where do you think the series is heading? Tell us in the comments!