Forbidden Lord by Helen Dickson
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars
This was a slow-starter that threw me a curve ball, as I ended up getting fairly engrossed in the story. I started this as a quick in-between book as I knocked out my review books, and the next thing I knew, I was fully engaged.
I really liked Eleanor’s spunk and her unbeatable, strong nature. She’d faced so much in her young life, despite its idyllic start. Her mother married a depraved, abusive man who drove her into an early grave, after her father lost his head when he was implicated in a plot to usurp Queen Mary’s (Mary I, known as Bloody Mary, Elizabeth I’s older sister, a devout Catholic who persecuted and had many Protestant English subjects killed) reign. Now she was facing molestation at the hands of her stepfather if she didn’t flee from his house. She was strong enough to take care of herself and make decisions on her own future, even if it caused her to dress as a man and seek safe passage with her enemy. Even though Eleanor could have come off as bratty, she never did. I could understand her dislike for William, considering that she believed he turned in her father in the plot against Queen Mary to save his skin. I could also understand her reasons for resisting her feelings for William and later marrying another man. She wasn’t one to go off on a tangent with little information. She processed the situation to the best of her understanding, and made rational decisions. I ended up liking Eleanor a lot, and admired her early on in this story.
William started out as a hero who seemed a bit on the harsh, arrogant, bracing side. As the book progresses, I saw that he had a caring, loving heart. He didn’t want to fall for Eleanor, but she found a way into his heart, and he remained steadfast to her. I admit I liked his determined, possessive feelings for her. He took her sudden marriage in stride, and didn’t let that stand in his way for long.
For the brevity of the focus spent on the secondary characters, I did find them interesting, and their motivates captured the period well, illustrating the intrigues and the dangers of the English Monarchs' courtlife. I especially liked Godfrey, William's close friend. He was captivating enough to be the hero in his own book!
I saw Eleanor’s marriage to another man coming and I was really worried. I really dislike adultery in romance novels. I have to admit that the handling of it wasn’t as obnoxious as I feared. Eleanor’s marriage to Martin was a beard relationship (It turns out Martin is 100% gay and most people know it, and she actually got tricked and pressured into it). I liked that she took it seriously though, and didn’t lightly enter into an adulterous relationship with William. And I was glad that it didn’t stay adulterous for long.
I feel that the adventure/intrigue plot could have been more strongly developed . The culprit behind William’s being transported/shanghaied, who had betrayed Eleanor’s father was revealed in a way that was a bit anticlimactic, and so was the final confrontation scene. And sadly, he was an interesting character. I think it would have made for a very intense climax if executed differently. But the romance aspect of the relationship made up for that short-coming. I found Eleanor and William’s romance captivating, and you could see that their love was strong, not just based on outward attractiveness and lust, but a true respect and kinship. They were both survivors with strong instincts of family and honor, and saw that in each other.
This book was a bit odd for an Elizabethan. I thought some of the descriptions was a bit on the generic side, and the dialogue didn’t always ring true for me. Overall, the author captured the period well, but I felt that she could have made the novel more authentic in that regard. Queen Elizabeth shows up in the background, but the book doesn’t show Eleanor interacting with her at all. In one scene, William greets and pays court to the Queen, but that’s as much as we actually see Elizabeth in the story. The focus is more of the other aspects of court life. I find Elizabeth an interesting historical figure. Although I’m not much of an historical fiction reader, I do enjoy reading romance books where she plays a role. I was disappointed that she wasn’t in this book more. It seemed like a wasted opportunity for me.
I didn’t have high expectations for this one initially, but it turned out to be an entertaining read. I liked the characters, and I enjoyed the Elizabethan setting, although I think it could have been more fleshed out. I think some readers would enjoy this one, especially for the romance aspects. It was pretty good, but not a book that would give four stars to. Thus, the 3.75/5.0 star rating.
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