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Kuhn gives his novel's Queen a charming runaway escapade

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‘Mrs. Queen Takes the Train'

Author: William Kuhn

Publisher: Harper, $25.99, 384 pages

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By Carol Memmott
Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, 12:53 p.m.


Everybody, even the Queen of England, needs to get away once in a while, and that's what Her Majesty does in the whimsical “Mrs. Queen Takes the Train” by William Kuhn.

It is said one of the few times the queen wept in public was when her beloved Royal Yacht Britannia was retired. The yacht was decommissioned in 1997 and is now berthed in Edinburgh, where tourists traipse the decks and gawk at the queen's stateroom. Even so, the Britannia is where the queen's adventure takes her.

Her spontaneous me-time ride from London's King's Cross to Edinburgh's Waverley station follows a bout of depression that strikes as she contemplates royal scandals: her children's divorces, the public backlash to her seemingly callous response to Princess Diana's death and the grim reality of growing old. (The novel is obviously set before the recent glory days of the Diamond Jubilee.)

The queen walks out of Buckingham Palace and, wearing a borrowed skull-emblazoned hoodie, her incognito journey begins. But Elizabeth is not without backup. With the aid of Rajiv, the young man who works at the local cheese shop, and Rebecca, a royal stable hand, she wends her way north with her dresser, lady-in-waiting, butler and equerry all in hot pursuit.

This is a novel, but no matter how you felt about the queen before reading it, you'll come away thinking Her Majesty, at least this fictional one, charming, caring, thoughtful and brave.

William Kuhn's book is hard to categorize. But its light comedy, romance and royal sensibilities, mixed with subplots touching on aging, political correctness and respect for sexual preferences, make for a delightful escape.

Carol Memmott is a staff writer for USA Today.

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