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Review: New Meghan Markle biography offers engaging look at future royal bride

In this Thursday, March 8, 2018 photo, Britain's Prince Harry and his fiance Meghan Markle are greeted by flag waving school children as they arrive to take part in an event for young women as part of International Women's Day in Birmingham, central England. Kensington Palace says the California-born Markle intends to take U.K. citizenship after she marries Harry on May 19 at Windsor Castle. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File) LON105
Published May 4, 2018

Meghan Markle is set to marry her prince on May 19 in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle as Queen Elizabeth II, the British royal family and millions of television viewers around the world look on. The obvious question then, of course, is whether the American actor and Harry will live happily ever after.

That answer is harder to conjure. Germaine Greer, the noted feminist, predicted recently on Australia's 60 Minutes television program that Markle will "bolt" under the pressure of the royal grind as "vistas of boredom" stretch before her. And the Wall Street Journal published a helpful warning to the future royal bride that the Internal Revenue Service will be watching to make sure Uncle Sam gets his cut of her new lifestyle.

Boredom and the IRS — what obstacles to nuptial bliss! Yet, reading the just-released Meghan: A Hollywood Princess by Andrew Morton leaves me feeling hopeful for the bride (and Harry). The woman described in this book appears to be a talented, confident actor and humanitarian who has been an articulate spokeswoman for gender equality whether writing on social media, meeting both female parliamentarians and refugees in Rwanda, or speaking at a United Nations forum.

Markle is not like previous royal brides. As the Telegraph wrote in an editorial: "A divorced, mixed-race Hollywood actress who attended a Roman Catholic school is to marry the son of the next king. Such a sentence could simply not have been written a generation ago."

"Her presence inside the royal family is a challenge and an opportunity," Morton writes, predicting she "will complement her husband and the august institution she has married into, bringing a freshness, diversity, and warmth to the chilly corridors of Buckingham Palace."

Curiosity about the Suits star is running high these days. This biography is one of a slew of similar books being published in the weeks before the royal wedding to feed that interest.

What makes Meghan: A Hollywood Princess stand out from the pack is the fame of Morton, whose book Diana: Her True Story explosively blew the cover off the unhappy marriage of Harry's parents. It came as such a surprise to a public fed a steady diet of pap about Prince Charles and Diana, princess of Wales. And it was written with such authority — thanks to Diana's secret cooperation.

Morton provides a dutiful and generally positive profile of Markle in his biography. But there's little of the "wow" factor that made Diana: Her True Story such a powerful book. I wish there was more of that in Meghan: A Hollywood Princess.

Yes, Morton writes about Markle growing up with a white father and an African-American mother who divorced when she was a child. He writes about the challenges and racism Markle faced. But I still wish he could have gone deeper into what motivates and inspires her.

Why? That's the question I found myself asking repeatedly while reading this book. Why did Markle split, seemingly quite abruptly, from her first husband, film producer Trevor Engelson? Why did she seem to be dropping old friends while "carefully recalibrating her life" to newfound success? Why did her work for U.N. Women drop off considerably?

I found myself wondering what her future — and that of her family — will be like. Yes, Markle has dutifully erased her social media accounts and shut down her influential blog, the Tig (which Morton writes "contained intelligent and well-written essays about gender equality and race"), but can she be content to stay silent or speak only the lines scripted for her by royal officials?

Morton, for one, paints an optimistic vision of the future.

"While they may have come from different countries, backgrounds, and cultures, their union is undoubtedly the crowning symbolic achievement of the special relationship between a monarchy and a republic."

Let's see.

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