Thursday, March 1, 2018

Review: Red Adam's Lady by Grace Ingram

From the Back Cover:

The fair Lady Julitta has a problem. She is not wealthy. She prizes her virginity. And her liege, whom she despises, is intent on rape. Red Adam is the lord of Brentborough castle—young, impetuous, scandalous, a twelfth-century hell raiser. On one of his nights of drunken revelry he abducts Julitta. Though she fends him off, keeping her virginity, he has sullied her honor. Then, to the astonishment of all, he marries her.

Red Adam’s Lady is a boisterous, bawdy tale of wild adventure, set against the constant dangers of medieval England. It is a story of civil war and border raids, scheming aristorcrats and brawling villagers, daring escapes across the moors and thundering descents down steep cliffs to the ocean. Its vivid details give the reader a fascinating and realistic view of life in a medieval castle and village. And the love story in it is an unusual one, since Julitta won’t let Adam get closer than the length of her stiletto. Long out of print though highly acclaimed, Red Adam’s Lady is a true classic of historical fiction along the lines of Anya Seton’s Katherine and Sharon Kay Penman’s Here Be Dragons.

My Thoughts:

I had not heard of this book before receiving an email asking if I'd be interested in reviewing the reissued edition, but when I saw that Elizabeth Chadwick had written the foreword and that it was being compared to SKP and Anya Seton, I had to give it a shot.

While waiting out a storm in a village tavern, Lady Julitta is mistaken for a strumpet by the new young lord of the manor, Red Adam, whose reputation for drinking and whoring is legendary. I think the book blurb does him a disservice by claiming he's intent on rape, though he does think she's a whore and can't understand why she doesn't want to have a little fun with him. Julitta knocks him out cold and ties him to the bedpost, and when Adam awakes in the morning, it's love at first sight for him. Ashamed of his behavior, and seeing Julitta subjected to her uncle's wrath, Adam vows to make it right by marrying her. Prideful Julitta refuses to see a man shackled to her as punishment, but she soon realizes marriage to Adam is the only real option she has. But she determines this will be a marriage in name only, no matter how sweet her handsome new husband is.

Jealous of their new mistress and not happy at having to work again after years of neglecting their duties, most of the servants in the household conspire against her, making her uphill battle to transform the dilapidated keep into a nobleman's home even steeper. Add to her problems the discovery that someone in the household has been stealing from Adam, the mystery of what happened to the old lord's pregnant wife resurfaces, rumors of another heir seeking to oust Red Adam abound, and there's a rebellion going on in the kingdom, of which Adam is smack in the middle. Taking place during the time when Henry II's heir, Young King Henry, rises up against him and nobles in England have to decide with which king their loyalty lies, Adam holds for Henry II, but his neighbors support the young king and consider Adam a traitor. And then the Scots invade...

This book started off a bit rough for me, being thrown right into the action with lots of period dialect and archaic language, but I was soon swept up in the story and could not put it down. Red Adam is totally swoon-worthy, or as we say in the South, he's a big ole sweet potato. And Julitta is a clever vixen (as Adam calls her) indeed. Her stubborn pride, her previous mistreatment at the hands of other men, and her low self-esteem all serve in convincing her to hold Adam at arm's length, to never let him see the effect he has on her. But Adam, bless him, wise beyond his years, completely at odds with the initial picture we are given of him, recognizes all of these things, realizes what a catch she is, and determines to win her love against those odds. The scene where she finally confesses her love for him and they consummate their marriage is the kind of scene that lends itself to being read over and over again--it's that sweet and honest and romantic.

While this technically has all the hallmarks of a romance, it's also gritty, bloody, and tragic--these were dangerous times they were living in, even without the rebellion. Characters start dropping like a George R.R. Martin novel, and the climactic scenes in which Adam and Julitta are fleeing for their lives from his enemies, along the way trying to save as many innocents as they can from the invading Scots, are nail-biters. This is a story that stands the test of time and is sure to please readers who like their romance with hearty doses of history and adventure.

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Jenny. Hope you'll share it with everyone over at Books You Loved: March. Cheers from carole's Chatter


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