I decided that, in choosing where to start my romance novel quest, I wouldn’t look at existing reviews of the books. I didn’t want to go into something already dreading it, or with my expectations far higher than they should be for a non-romance reader. I used a highly sophisticated eeny-meeny-miney-mo method for choosing my book, and voila!
Can I just start by saying…o hai grown-up Ben Barnes lookalike! Who cares if the cover costuming looks rather modern when we’ve got him smoldering at us???
*clears throat* Aaaanyway.
I loved this book. Seriously.
As I believe I’ve already said, I’m a little afraid of historical novels in general. I’ve never been a fan of history, in school or otherwise, and so I guess I go into these books assuming that I can’t enjoy the story if I don’t already understand some element of its setting. The advantage, of course, is that I also don’t know if the author’s getting it wrong. I also imagine that it will be more difficult to become absorbed when I don’t know the world already. (Which is dumb, I know, as I read epic fantasy…but still.) I found out pretty quickly that my fears were unfounded–for this book, anyway.
The story starts in England, and we’re introduced to our Hero, Saber/Raul, who is the bastard son of nobleman (don’t ask me to give you the proper titles and levels and stuff…see above, re: history) and has come to England to take his proper place as the heir, since said nobleman has only daughters by his wife. We know immediately that the kid does NOT want to be there, but he’s forced (i.e. punished) into behaving somewhat. He believes that he’s the heir to a long-lost throne in the country from which he came (Moricadia), and he’ll just have to endure England until he can go home and conquer the evil rulers.
Fast forward a bit, and we get to see Raul grown up and then meet our Heroine, Victoria, who is a friend of one of Raul’s sisters. She’s feisty, and Raul is cocky, and they immediately clash…very politely, because that’s the way of things. The “problem” is that they are both sort of justified in their attitudes, so while they have conflict, it’s a very nice sort of conflict from the reader’s perspective. You wanna root for both of them.
Oh yeah, and there’s that super hot kiss at the Raul’s family’s ball. Very nice chemistry, and then BOOM.
All of that takes up the first 44 pages, and it’s really sort of the backstory. It’s good, entertaining backstory, but the real plot kicks off in chapter 7, which is 3 years later. Raul has returned to his home country and is working on reclaiming his throne, and Victoria is there as a governess because her charges’ father comes to Moricadia for work. Neither of them remembers that scorching kiss, naturally. No really, they DON’T. Really. Well, okay, maybe a little. But it wasn’t all that great. No, really. Can Victoria help it if coming to his country makes her think of him, or if she makes smart ass comments about him being some wannabe prince? It can’t be true. That would mean she’d kissed a prince. Not possible.
Except said smart ass comments are ill-placed, and Raul has to act quickly to make sure she doesn’t say the wrong thing to the wrong people…by kidnapping her, of course. When I read that bit on the back of the book, I figured that part of the story would be dumb, and I’d have to just accept it as a plot point and move on. But really, it made sense. Raul’s right-hand man is trying to convince him it’s the best plan, and I’m nodding along with him. “Yes, kidnap her! It’s the only way you can make sure your secret doesn’t get out!”
The story reads a lot like a fantasy novel. There’s no magic or odd creatures, but I was struck by how similar some of the bits of the story were. (Now I’m wondering if other historical novels might be like this, too.) There’s a good deal more sex here than in most of the fantasy epics I’ve read, but it’s not of the annoyingly descriptive sort. It’s spicy without having to name every. single. body. part. involved. The build-up to capital-L love is gradual and believable, and the climax (heh – no pun intended) and conclusion are exciting and satisfying. So much so that I don’t want to summarize here.
Everyone else has probably read this stuff already, but if you haven’t, DO IT. I really enjoyed it.
I’m adding Christina Dodd to my list of authors to read in the future, but for now it’s off to another random book. What will I choose next??