Adam de Guirande owes his lord, Sir Roger Mortimer, much more than loyalty. He owes Sir Roger for his life and all his worldly good, he owes him for his beautiful wife – even if Kit is not quite the woman Sir Roger thinks she is. So when Sir Roger rises in rebellion against the king, Adam has no choice but to ride with him – no matter what the ultimate cost may be.
England in 1321 is a confusing place. Edward II has been forced by his barons to exile his favourite, Hugh Despenser. The barons, led by the powerful Thomas of Lancaster, Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, have reasons to believe they have finally tamed the king. But Edward is not about to take things lying down, and fate is a fickle mistress, favouring first one, then the other.
Adam fears his lord has over-reached, but at present Adam has other matters to concern him, first and foremost his new wife, Katherine de Monmouth. His bride comes surrounded by rumours concerning her and the baron, and he hates it when his brother snickers and whispers of used goods.
Kit de Courcy has the misfortune of being a perfect double of Katherine de Monmouth – which is why she finds herself coerced into wedding a man under a false name. What will Adam do when he finds out he has been duped?
Domestic matters become irrelevant when the king sets out to punish his rebellious barons. The Welsh Marches explode into war, and soon Sir Roger and his men are fighting for their very lives. When hope splutters and dies, when death seems inevitable, it falls to Kit to save her man – if she can.
In the Shadow of the Storm is the first in Anna Belfrage’s new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his baron, his king, and his wife.
I have been wanting to read an Anna Belfrage book for ages, so when I heard she had a new series coming out set during the reign of Edward II, I was all in. I've read a couple of books from this time period, but this is the first one from the camp of the rebellious rebels and the first one to portray Roger Mortimer as more of a hero than a villain, which I found interesting.
The story begins with Kit de Courcy being kidnapped, drugged, and threatened into pretending to be her lookalike half sister, Katherine de Monmouth, in order for an important political alliance to move forward since the real Katherine has fled the country. Desperate to keep her beloved country home and her tenants safe, Kit agrees to go along. The deal is significantly sweetened by a wedding night with a handsome and passionate new husband.
Adam de Guirande will do anything for his lord and foster father Lord Roger, even marry the woman Lord Roger is rumored to have been bedding and look the other way while he continues to do so. But Adam doesn't count on finding his beautiful new wife so sweet and chaste, nor does he count on falling in love with her. The swirling rumors and laughing whispers that follow him make for a difficult honeymoon period and threaten to ruin what could be a wonderful relationship. In fact, Adam acts like a right prick for a while, especially after the truth of Kit's identity is revealed, and I was burning through the pages to see if he would come to his senses before Kit left him for good.
But the newlyweds soon have more pressing issues to contend with as Lord Roger openly revolts against the king over the return of his favorite from exile, Hugh Despenser, and Adam follows him into battle. Betrayed by another baron, Lord Roger and his followers find themselves at the mercy of an angry king, and Adam ends up in prison, where he becomes a target for a sadistic Despenser's torture. And Kit has her hands full at home warding off a takeover attempt by her husband's jealous younger brother. When she learns of her husband's mistreatment in prison, she takes matters into her own hands. But there's still the matter of Lord Roger's imprisonment and an emboldened Despenser wreaking vengeance across the country on behalf of a weak king. The rebellion has been quashed for now, but the barons are angrier than ever, and Queen Isabella is laying her own plans for a husband who allows his favorite to rule in his place.
Throughout all of this drama, Kit and Adam cope with getting to know each other, rebuilding an ailing manor, starting a family, and staying a step ahead of Despenser, and Kit struggles with Adam's devotion to his lord, seemingly at the expense of his family. Adam is so devoted to Lord Roger that he never questions why the man who raised him like a son gave him a wife he fully intended to keep having relations with, which doesn't seem to me to be the sort of thing an honorable man would do to his foster son. I'm a little worried about the imbalance in that relationship and what that will mean in future books, and I think Kit has every right to be worried about the beautiful and conniving Queen Isabella.
I enjoyed this first installment in The King's Greatest Enemy series, though it turned out to be not quite what I was expecting. There's a heavier focus on the romance and lots of tasteful sex, which is totally fine by me, but I point it out for those readers who prefer their historical fiction with less of those elements. The plot is exciting, with one dramatic development after another, but even so, the pacing lagged a bit in a few places, and there were a few instances of more modern language that stood out to me. A large portion of this book is devoted to setting the stage and the players, and I think the real meat of the history of this contentious time period will be revealed in future books. But this book does a nice job of depicting the effects rebellion by a country's nobles has on their followers and the common folk and does not shy away from portraying the harshness of the times, particularly for women. I'm looking forward to going back and reading Ms. Belfrage's earlier series, The Graham Saga, and seeing what's in store for Kit and Adam as this series progresses.
My Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5
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