Wednesday, October 3, 2012

New Review: Laura Navarre’s BY ROYAL COMMAND - Well Told Medieval Tale with Unique Perspective and Interesting Love Triangle

This historic romance from Navarre is both well written and unique. For one thing, it’s entirely in the heroine’s perspective so the heroine is in every scene and it’s only her head we’re in (which means the men did more talking!). Despite the tag line on the book’s cover, I did not think this a story of two brothers and one woman. Well, yes, there were two brothers, but one was the villain so he didn’t count as a rival. The heroine didn’t want him. No, this was the story of the heroine’s two loves, one a Viking-bred hero and one a dark, warrior priest from France. Hence, the rub. It’s not every historical romance that finds the heroine giving her body and her heart to a worthy and noble hero and shortly thereafter marrying another to whom she is instantly attracted. (She “scarcely thinks” of the man she loved but days before.) The heroine called herself fickle; I guess so.

Set in England in 1005, it tells the story of Katrin of Courtenay, whose uncle, Ethelred the King, has summoned her to London to marry again now that her husband is dead. If you’ve encountered Ethelred in other romance novels (and I have), this is a very different man. By the author’s own “note,” she paints him as an evil lecher. Meanwhile, Katrin’s husband had been cruel and controlling, and she doesn't want another one. She believes she can hold her northern keep on the Scottish border well enough alone (though the opening scene would suggest that isn’t the case). To transport her to London, the king has dispatched his Viking-bred warrior, Eomond, to return her to court. On the journey, she and Eomond find they can’t resist the passion between them and Katrin falls in love with her protector. Though Katrin and Eomond love each other, when they arrive at the king’s court, her uncle tells her she’ll wed Rafael le Senay, the Baron of Belmaine. Rafael was training to be a bishop when his younger brother died and he had to take his place. Neither he nor Katrin want the marriage, at least not until they meet.

Navarre’s strength is clearly in storytelling and she captures well the medieval voice. It’s a powerful tale that will hold your interest. And her work reflects serious research for which I give her full marks. But you have to be prepared for a different heroine. Her lies and shifting affections left me a bit cold. (“Merciful God, she’d lied to him already. Now she must weave layer upon layer of deception, vary her pattern like the warp and woof of her loom until he couldn’t see which thread to pull to unravel her falsehoods.”) It was hard to believe her feelings for Rafael, though a worthy hero, were real given the short time between her relationship with him and her last tryst with Eomond. Meanwhile, Eomond is still in the picture.

Even with all that, It was a good read and I recommend it.

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