As a history major, I love fiction that breathes life into history’s forgotten figures.
From page one of THE OTHER PRINCESS, I was gripped by the story of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, the princess from Yoruba, West Africa, who became Queen Victoria’s ward.
We meet Sarah as five-year-old Aina. She’s strong-willed and destined—according to Yoruba tradition—for a life of hardship and heartbreak. The baby of the royal family, her destiny was established by a difficult birth.
After she witnesses Amazon warriors working for King Gezo slaughter everyone she loves, she’s captured. For two years, she lives with the constant threat of being sold into slavery or sacrificed. On the day that she’s to be executed, an English commander convinces King Gezo she’ll make the perfect gift for his monarch.
Commander Forbes is a kind soul who helps Aina prepare for her new life, one she’s eager to embrace because she never wants to return to Africa. Of course, things aren’t that straightforward for a young Black noblewoman in Victorian England.
Aina, now Sarah, is smart, musically gifted, and longs to be the next Jane Austen. The Queen enjoys her presence and intellect, but Sarah quickly learns how little choice she has over where she lives and with whom.
As the plot takes her back and forth between London, Brighton, and Sierra Leone, she struggles to belong, struggles to find a home, and struggles to allow others in. Her resistance to making friends is heartbreaking, but she’s learned too young that you have to protect yourself.
Death and loneliness are what she understands best. Grief is her constant shadow. Whichever household she’s in, she overhears whispers about her character and the color of her skin. The brutal truth is that she’s a princess who has never been treated as one.
I cheered for Sarah on her journey to find identity, family, love, and her place in history.