Book reviews

The Royal Correspondent by Alexandra Joel

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Breaking into the newspaper business in 1960s Sydney—a competitive world dominated by hard-edged men—isn’t easy for a woman. But Blaise Hill is far from ordinary. The only female in The Clarion’s newsroom, her long-held dream of being a reporter has come true. Blaise isn’t chasing stories just to make a name for herself; she’s helping support her family and her beloved sister Ivy, whose life has been transformed by polio.

But the ambitious young journalist’s confidence is shaken when she secretly witnesses the murder of a top crime boss—a death that rocks the Sydney underworld. One of the few people who knows what really happened—and what Blaise knows—is the handsome, enigmatic Adam Rule, who helps cover up the murder. When she gets a plum assignment—moving to England to cover the British royal family—Blaise hopes to put it all behind her. 

Carving her own path among the scandal and intrigue of the Swinging Sixties in London, life is just about perfect—until the night she attends Queen Elizabeth’s gala in honour of the upcoming nuptials of Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones. Among the exclusive crowd is the last man she ever wanted to see—Adam Rule. 

Is Blaise’s dark secret coming back to hurt her—or is this the beginning of something far more dangerous?

Blaise Hill has always known what she wants to do – she wants to be a journalist, digging out those hard-hitting news stories and making a name for herself. But the year is 1958, and women’s rights aren’t exactly where they should be, so it’s going to be less of a struggle and more of an uphill battle.

With her younger sister in hospital where she is receiving treatment for polio, money is a priority and her family is eager for her to get her school cert and just get a job, any job that will help them to ensure Ivy gets the help she so desperately needs.

Through a friend of a friend, she is able to get an interview with the head of a newspaper and though they are reluctant to hire a woman, she proves herself to be exactly what she says, determined, eager and willing to do anything to succeed, she is no different than the men who are pursuing their dreams.

On the way home one night she witnesses a murder and helps to cover it up, taking the murder weapon and hiding it until she is able to dispose of it – and it is in committing this act that she unwittingly seals her fate. For this is the moment that she meets the enigmatic Adam Rule. Though she doesn’t realise it at the time, his appearance in her life will have a huge impact on her life both personally and professionally.

After a couple of years of doing her best to prove herself, Blaise has finally made it – in that she has been moved to the Women’s section of the newspaper, a fully-fledged journalist, though she is reporting on fashion, celebrities, and recipes, though she wants nothing more than to be reporting on politics and the more gritty subjects that the men on the first floor are writing about.

And then she gets her break. Her ability to sniff out a story has not gone unnoticed, but as a woman, the newspaper doesn’t consider she can take the same risks as her male counterparts. It seems that the Royal correspondent in London has broken his leg while skiing and they need someone in London right away, they cannot afford to miss the opportunity of reporting on Princess Margaret’s wedding to a commoner, the photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones.

What Blaise doesn’t realise as she heads to London, is that she is about to become the centre of a story that scandalises the political world for years to come…and that her own involvement will be vital.

The 1960s were a decade of change for so many reasons, they were glamorous and intriguing and this book takes you to the centre of all of that, with events like the wedding of Elizabeth’s rebellious younger sister, the rise of Mary Quant, David Bailey’s meteoric rise to fame, and of course the Profumo Affair, which blasted open the Cabinet at the time and led to multiple career-ending revelations.

On the surface, this book looks as though it is just about a journalist, but it introduces so many facets of the situations that took place in London during the early part of the 1960s and spins them just a little to give a new perspective. Blaise has been dropped in at the deep end due to her skills with sniffing out the best stories – though she is constantly discouraged from doing so. She is given so many mixed messages “thank you for this story, don’t do it again” and “keep to the fashion pages” yet when she gets these stories she is praised and punished in equal measure.

Everything starts with Adam Rule; an influential man who has money and the ear of the right people. So, is he the man behind the scenes tugging at the strings, or is he just able to whisper a few words and let her do the rest on her own? I have to admit I did wonder this a lot after the first time you realise that he has helped Blaise to get a particularly juicy story.

I was always fascinated with the Profumo Affair though when I watched Scandal for the first time it was all about the clothes and the glamour, the late-night parties, the sharing of damaging secrets. This book expands upon that, without making Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies the centre…are they in the book? Absolutely! But the woman at the centre of it all, who breaks the story and reveals the truth (which has been adapted slightly to give the book a touch more depth and bring it all back to our main character) is our fictional protagonist.

And what would a book about growth and learning be without a touch of romance? Well…in this book we have two potential love interests…the mysterious Adam and the somewhat staid and sensible Charles…the fact that they dislike each other immensely only helps to further the competition, with the sensible Charles showing his hand early and doing his utmost to ensure that Blaise never wants anything to do with Adam again.

I found this particular plot point frustrating if only because it proved how inexperienced Blaise was when it came to life. She stepped blindly into a relationship with Charles and he was a  master at gaslighting her. Doing his utmost to change her. Her friends could see it, the readers could see it, but she just (initially) at least, found his attentions to be flattering and enthralling. With a powerful political position, he manipulates her to just where he wants her to be though his machinations are somewhat hidden. Joel portrays him as incredibly charming, he has a way with words and she hides his true character behind good looks. I did feel that the relationship moved along incredibly quickly, though it spanned several years. However, the timeline is something I have a number of issues with because the passing of time isn’t something the book seems to make very clear. Each chapter has a year at the start of it – but the timeline is anything but consecutive.

The ability of the writer to get me so involved in the story and the lives of these characters so quickly is to be admired. I read the entire book in a single sitting and it made for (strangely) the ideal accompaniment to the Coronation weekend, focused as much of it was in the world of the royals, politics and scandal!


  • The mysterious Adam
  • The way that the political intrigue of the time was so seamlessly tied into the fiction of the novel


  • Parts of the novel felt rushed – we moved from 1960 to 1962 with barely a blink
4-star rating
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