Adam de Guirande has barely survived the aftermath of Roger Mortimer’s rebellion in 1321. When Mortimer manages to escape the Tower and flee to France, anyone who has ever served Mortimer becomes a potential traitor – at least in the eyes of King Edward II and his royal chancellor, Hugh Despenser. Adam must conduct a careful balancing act to keep himself and his family alive. Fortunately, he has two formidable allies: Queen Isabella and his wife, Kit. England late in 1323 is a place afflicted by fear. Now that the king’s greatest traitor, Roger Mortimer, has managed to evade royal justice, the king and his beloved Despenser see dissidents and rebels everywhere – among Mortimer’s former men, but also in the queen, Isabella of France.
Their suspicions are not unfounded. Tired of being relegated to the background by the king’s grasping favourite, Isabella has decided it is time to act – to safeguard her own position, but also that of her son, Edward of Windsor. As Adam de Guirande has pledged himself to Prince Edward he is automatically drawn into the queen’s plans – whether he likes it or not.
Yet again, Kit and Adam are forced to take part in a complicated game of intrigue and politics. Yet again, they risk their lives – and that of those they hold dear – as the king and Mortimer face off. Once again, England is plunged into war – and this time it will not end until either Despenser or Mortimer is dead.
Days of Sun and Glory is the second in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.
Days of Sun and Glory is the second book in Anna Belfrage's The King's Greatest Enemy series. I enjoyed the first book, In the Shadow of the Storm, though I pointed out a few issues that kept me from rating it higher, and I'm happy to say I enjoyed this book more. It's hard to review books in a series without giving away spoilers from earlier installments, so I am going to skip a detailed plot recap and attempt to avoid major spoilers from both books! Here goes:
At the end of In the Shadow of the Storm, Kit and Adam de Guirande have survived Roger Mortimer's first rebellion, and after imprisonment, torture, and harassment at the hands of King Edward II's favorite, Hugh Despenser, they are hoping for a quiet life at their country estate. But since Adam had to swear allegiance to the young Prince Edward to secure his life and his freedom, they know that dream is not likely to be reality, and it is not long before they are recalled to court. But now that Roger Mortimer has escaped the Tower and has been given refuge in France, court is even more dangerous for anyone even suspected of having ties to Mortimer. Still Despenser's target, Adam is tested daily, and though he struggles to keep his head above water, he and Kit are inexorably drawn into the web Isabella and Mortimer are weaving around the king and his favorite. And when Isabella and Mortimer are finally reunited, nothing will stand in their way. Kit and Adam face danger and betrayal from multiple foes on a journey that takes them from the royal residences in England to the French court of Charles IV and the Count of Hainault and finally back to the shores of England in an invasion that changes the course of history.
I am fascinated by the saga of Edward II, Queen Isabella, and Roger Mortimer, and I love getting an inside view of it from some of the people who are most affected by this power struggle. A large portion of the first book in this series was devoted to setting the stage and the players for the real meat of the history of this contentious time period to be explored in future books, and that is exactly what happens in Days of Sun and Glory. Kit and Adam are (mostly) happily married and determined to face the trials ahead of them together as the rebellion that has been brewing for years finally takes shape. And being torn between loyalty to Roger Mortimer and Prince Edward is a trial indeed. Ms. Belfrage pulls no punches in this book, and the realities of how harsh, unforgiving, and heartbreaking life could be in the fourteenth century are unflinchingly depicted. Belfrage also excels at descriptive detail, creating a rich historical ambiance to serve as a backdrop for the intense political struggles of Edward II's reign. The time period is masterfully brought to life.
While I love a dramatic and exciting plot, I found some of the fictional plot elements, particularly those involving Kit's family, to be a little over-the-top, and I found myself getting annoyed with Kit's behavior at times. She is a strong and sassy heroine, which I love, but she is also prone to anger and jealousy and quick to draw (incorrect) conclusions. And she has a habit of putting herself in dangerous situations from which she has to be rescued. Poor Adam. Between his torn loyalties, the ever-present threat of a traitor's death, and his wife's reckless behavior, it's easy to see why he's a little frazzled in this story. As in the first book, there's a heavy focus on Kit and Adam's personal relationship and lots of tasteful sex scenes, which is fine by me, but I point it out for those readers who prefer their historical fiction with less of those elements.
Overall, I ended up enjoying this book more than the first, and I couldn't put it down. The plot is tightly paced, weaving the facts of the rebellion with personal stories of love, loyalty, and justice. Anyone with an interest in this time period who enjoys hunky heroes, spunky heroines, and a hearty dose of romance should find much to admire in this series.
My Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
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Days of Sun and Glory