Monday, February 1, 2010

Review: The Tudor Rose Trilogy by Susan Wiggs

From the Back Cover:  At the King's Command

Frustrated by his own failures at matrimony, King Henry VIII punishes an insolent nobleman by commanding him to marry the vagabond woman caught stealing his horse. Stephen de Lacey is a cold and bitter widower, long accustomed to the sovereign's capricious and malicious whims. He regards his new bride as utterly inconvenient...though undeniably fetching.

But Juliana Romanov is no ordianry horse thief - she is a Russian princess forced into hiding by the traitorous cabal who slaughtered her family. One day she hopes to return to Muscovy to seek vengeance.

What begins as a mockery of a marriage ultimately blossoms into deepest love.

From the Back Cover:  The Maiden's Hand

Roguishly handsome Oliver de Lacey has always lived lustily; wine, weapons and women are his bywords. Even salvation from the noose by a shadowy society provides no epiphany to mend his debauched ways.

Mistress Lark's sole passion is her secret work with a group of Protestant dissidents thwarting the queen's executions. She needs no other excitement - until Oliver de Lacey drops through the hangman's door and into her life.

As their fates become inextricably bound together in a struggle against royal persecution, both Oliver and Lark discover a love worth saving...even dying for.

From the Back Cover:  At the Queen's Summons

Feisty orphan Pippa de Lacey lives by wit and skill as a London street performer. But when her sharp tongue gets her into serious trouble, she throws herself upon the mercy of Irish chieftain Aidan O'Donoghue.

Pippa provides a welcome diversion for Aidan as he awaits an audience with the queen, who holds his people's fate in her hands. Amused at first, he becomes obsessed with the audacious waif who claims his patronage.

Rash and impetuous, their unlikely alliance reverberates with desire and the tantalizing promise of a life each has always wanted - but never dreamed of attaining.

My Thoughts:

Russia, 1533:  A gypsy  reveals a prophecy of three women, three lives entwined. "I see blood and fire, loss and reunion, and a love so great that neither time nor death can destroy it." The stories that follow revolve around three generations of the de Lacey family, taking place during the reigns of Henry VIII, Mary and Elizabeth.

I don't hold historical romances to the same high standards of scholarship that I expect from historical fiction, but I do expect basic facts to be accurate. So when I read on the second page of chapter one in the first book, this description of Henry VIII's older brother: "The legendary Arthur had died young, in a blaze of glory", I almost put the book down. While I have no doubt Arthur would have been a much better king than his brother, everybody knows Arthur died a sixteen-year-old in his sickbed, not a "legend" in a "blaze of glory". However, that turned out to be the only glaring error I noticed, aside from finding it hard to believe that Henry VIII would do anything out of the kindness of his heart to help a gypsy and one of his least favorite noblemen, (and Mary and Elizabeth also dole out a few uncharacteristic acts of random kindness), but I'll go along with that for the sake of a good story.

And these are good stories. Ms. Wiggs has a talent for taking the basic elements of a formula romance and turning them into original, compelling stories with well-drawn characters. At the King's Command is my favorite of the three. It has stronger elements of mystery and danger, and it's more sensual, more emotional. Juliana is earthy and sexy and Stephen is tormented and inventive and I liked the Russian and Gypsy influences.

At the Maiden's Hand is the weakest link of the series. Lark is a dull heroine and there's nothing really original or surprising about Oliver. It has what could have been an interesting storyline with a group of "Samaritans" helping Protestants escape persecution, but it's not fully developed and too much time is spent on a silly cross dressing subplot.

At the Queen's Summons finishes strong. Pippa is fun and endearing as the streetwise orphan who desperately wants to find her family, and Aidan is brave and honorable as the Irish lord who comes to love her and struggles to protect her from truths that may hurt her and destroy their chance at happiness.

I'm a fan of Ms. Wiggs' historicals and this trilogy was satisfying, but none of them are going onto my Keeper Shelf. I much preferred her Calhoun Chronicles series.

My Rating:  3 Stars out of 5

**According to the author, these books were originally printed fifteen years ago. "In addition to being revised, the books have been given a new lease on life with fresh titles." At the King's Command was originally titled Circle in the Water, The Maiden's Hand was titled Vows Made in Wine and At the Queen's Summons was titled Dancing on Air.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed her Lakeshore Chronicles and have these in my TBR. Great review! I was wondering how historically accurate they would be!


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