26 February 2013

By His Majesty's Grace (The Three Graces of Graydon, Book 1)

Synopsis: Much to her chagrin, Lady Isabel Milton has been given to Earl Rand Braesford – a reward from the Tudor king for his loyalty to the throne. The lusty nobleman quickly claims his husbandly rights, an experience Isabel scarcely hoped to enjoy so much. But youth and strength may not save Braesford from his bride's infamous curse...

Accused of a heinous crime with implications that reach all the way to King Henry himself, Braesford is imprisoned in the Tower, and Isabel is offered her salvation – but for a price. She has the power to seal his fate, have him sent to the executioner and be freed from her marriage bonds. Yet the more Isabel learns of Rand, the less convinced she is of his guilt, and she commits to discover the truth about the enigmatic husband she never expected to love.

First line: Braesford was finally sighted in late afternoon.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by MIRA Books, 2011; 373 pages; purchased at a library sale.

My thoughts: While Isabel is a plucky heroine and Rand is a decent hero, I struggled a little to enjoy the book. Rand, despite being baseborn, has developed a close friendship with Henry VII, having been in exile with the king. When he sees Isabel and decides he wants her, Henry makes it happen. Isabel and her two younger sisters have been overseen by their step-brother since their father's death, and of course being women of their time they have no say in their own futures. I can deal with that, I've ready plenty of books with heroines in the same situation. But the king is a step up from the male head of the family, capriciously arranging the lives of not just young unmarried women, but of anyone around him as he sees fit. One minute he could be a great friend to Rand, and the next he's accused Rand of a murder and had him imprisoned. He just left a sour taste in my mouth that impeded my enjoyment of the story.

And then Isabel summed it up:
She hated it, hated that anyone, even a king, could so discompose her. It was the power he held, she knew, the power to decide the life or death of others in an instant, to extend pain or joy, to shut someone away from the light forever or to set them free. No one should have such arbitrary control over another soul. (pp 330-331)
I read that paragraph twice, and suddenly I looked at the whole story in a different light. Like, before that paragraph, Henry's whims and decrees were just matter of fact and accepted. That's life. That's just the way it is. But after reading that paragraph, I saw Henry as just another obstacle for the hero and heroine to overcome.

Okay, I realize that I'm not really making sense here. I've been thinking about this all day, and I'm just not sure how to express my thoughts any better. But putting the whole Henry issue aside...the book was okay. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it.

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