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Sunday, March 13, 2011

'The Queen's Lady' Tudor Historical Romance #2 by Eve EDWARDS


From the BLURB:

1584 – Surrey, England

When Lady Jane Rievaulx begins service to the Queen at Richmond Palace, she is thrilled at the court’s newest arrival . . . Master James Lacey. Despite her previous courtship with his older brother, James is the man she truly loves. And for his part, he cannot deny his fascination with her. However, James is setting sail on a treacherous journey to the Americas, seeking absolution for what he sees as past sins. But when Lady Jane is forced into a terrible situation by her own family, there is only one man to save her. Will Master James return to his lady ¬- before it’s too late?

It has been months since Lady Jane Perceval (nee Rievaulx) last saw James Lacey, and much has changed in that time. Lady Jane refused to marry James’s brother, Will (now the Earl of Dorset), knowing that his heart belonged to young Ellie Hutton. The couple have since welcomed an heir to Lacey House.
James and his faithful blackamoor servant, Diego, have campaigned for Elizabeth’s army overseas and the young Master has returned home world-weary and haunted by all he has seen.

And Lady Jane has been widowed, with the passing of her dear friend and husband (in faith if not consummation) to stroke. Jane now finds herself at the mercy of her late husband’s money-hungry sons, and so seeks refuge in Elizabeth’s court as one of her ladies in waiting.

But one thing has remained steadfast all this time – Jane is still in love with James. And now an overseas campaign with the Queen’s favourite, Walter Raleigh, sees James Lacey attend court at the Richmond Palace. It is here that he will once again come face-to-face with the only woman he has ever wanted, but could never have. First because she was betrothed to his brother and now because he is not fit company for her gentle self.

‘The Queen’s Lady’ is the second book in Eve Edward’s majestic young adult series, ‘Tudor Historical Romance’.

I adored Edward’s first book in this series, ‘The Other Countess’, and I eagerly anticipated the second book in her compelling new series . . .

It must be said that the historic setting is spectacular. When the YA scene is currently crowded with novels of dystopia, vampires and angels, Eve Edwards has stepped outside the trends and written an historic series that is invigoratingly original.

England during the reign of The Virgin Queen is an inspired timeline. There are still tensions between Catholics and Protestants; England is under conquering threat from the Spanish Armada and expanding her territories to the New World in retaliation. This time period is so fascinating, even more so for it being relatively untouched by the YA genre.

Eve Edwards leaves no stone unturned in this series. She explores every historic crevice – from the grand, to the mundane. James Lacey sets off to the New World to engage with the natives and help Walter Raleigh scout for new colonies. Lacey’s manservant, the African blackamoor Diego, journeys with him to the New World and it’s fascinating to read the juxtaposing thoughts of the slave and his master as they set their eyes on the rich lands of America. . .
“This is a slice of heaven,” remarked James, spitting a pip into the sea.
Diego winced as another salvo echoed in the trees. “Until we arrived.”
Back in England, Lady Jane is in Elizabeth’s court and must manoeuvre herself through various royal politics and practicalities. But many challenges are thrown before Jane; like her late husband’s sons threatening her in the corridors, and unwanted amorous attentions from the Queen’s favourite, Walter Raleigh.
Jane bit her lip to stop her laughter. “It was you, sir, who chose to accost me, not the other way round. You have a jealous mistress.”
He harrumphed, seeing the humour in the situation. “True. You are no longer the naive girl I knew in Yorkshire, are you, Lady Rievaulx?”
“Indeed, no. And you, sir, for all your faults, have always been discerning.”
He laughed at that.“Excellently done, i’faith, a compliment with an insult. Welcome to court, my lady.”
The ‘Tudor Historical Romance’ series is firmly embedded in history, but it is never a history lesson. Eve Edwards never writes a dry fact, and she imbues this old world with spicy love stories and powerful characters. Clearly Edwards is a history-buff, but her characters are never lost amidst the grandiose timeline. Instead, Edwards places her characters at the forefront and interprets great expanses of history and conflict through their eyes, so you occasionally get concise little observations like this one;
With the Protestant Dutch hard pressed in the Low Countries, the Spanish in possession of Dunkirk and Nieupoort, a bridgehead to England should they wish to invade, it seemed to James that God had turned Catholic and was intent on bringing Elizabeth’s nation to its knees.
I love the historic setting of ‘The Queen’s Lady’. But I found myself more invested in the characters of first book ‘The Other Countess’.

I don’t think we got enough of Jane’s voice in this book. In ‘Countess’ Ellie was a prominent and forceful narrator. She was a woman apart in her times – an alchemist’s daughter with a sharp mind and sweet soul, at odds with her role as dutiful daughter and searching bride.
In ‘Lady’, Jane is overshadowed and often hushed by more compelling secondary characters who share the narrating spotlight, and in particular a secondary romance that plays alongside Jane and James’s.

Milly Porter is Jane’s childhood friend and independent businesswoman who runs her own seamstress business. James’s manservant, Diego, used to serve the Porter household before Milly’s father came into traitorous disgrace. When Diego and Milly reunite, there is instant chemistry and protestations of childhood love. I adored this storyline – not only for the forbidden romance between a young British seamstress and a foreigner blackamoor, but because Milly and Diego were such warm characters with a complicated past between them.

Then there is Christopher Turner, local playwright and actor who is friends with Milly, and also happens to be the illegitimate half-brother to the Lacey boys. Christopher ‘Kit’ Turner is dramatic and passionate – a character close to Shakespeare who I am delighted has his own book in this series, coming out July this year.

All of these wonderful, second-fiddle characters enriched the story, but blunted Jane’s character. I don’t think Jane got enough fleshing out or inner monologues. I think that her life was rife with story – a widowed woman (only eighteen!) navigating her way through the Queen’s court and trying to avoid her father’s new wedding prospects for her. There is a lot of story here, but other characters got more page-time and often more interesting plots to play out. Furthermore, I didn’t feel the same spark between James and Jane that I did between Will and Ellie. I don’t think it is helped by the fact that James and Jane first met (and fell in love) in ‘The Other Countess’, and Edwards relies a lot of their current attraction on past encounters from that book. Further hindering the spark of this romance is James’s travels to the New World. . .

However, I loved this book. I'd love any YA book that allows a young man to say “En garde!” and mean it with deadly intent. . . Eve Edwards has captured a period in time and brought it to exuberant life. She has spiced the Elizabethan era with love triangles and unrequited lust as she writes about young people living in extraordinary times. Codpieces, swordfights and Armada’s – oh my!

4/5

2 comments:

  1. I'm not too big on Historical Romance's but you write quite the convincing review. Fab review!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lovely review darling! Even though i dont really like the whole Historical thing, you do make it sound fabulous =)

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