By King's Decree

Lord of the Manor

 
By Queen’s Grace by Shari Anton
(Harlequin Hist. #493, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29093-4
***
Corwin of Lenvil, the twin brother of the heroine of By King’s Decree, agrees to deliver a letter from his sister to her friend Judith Canmore. Judith, a royal heiress and the niece of both the queen of England and the king of Scotland, is residing in a convent. When he nears the convent, he hears a woman scream. He learns that Judith has been abducted.

Corwin goes in pursuit to rescue her, but when he locates her and her three abductors, he overhears them talking. Judith has been seized as part of a larger rebellion against King Henry. Forty years after the Norman conquest of England, Saxons are plotting to retake the throne and the country. Judith is to become the bride of the leader of the revolt and, therefore, ultimately queen of England. Although Corwin is a Saxon, he is loyal to his oaths of fealty to both his overlord Gerard, his brother-in-law, and to the king. Corwin decides to pretend to join the rebellion in order to learn more about it in hopes of quelling it.

When Judith first met Corwin three years earlier, she had been attracted to the handsome Saxon but disdainful in her attitude towards him. She is shaken that a man she admired could betray his loyalties.

Corwin soon informs her of his ulterior purpose, and she agrees to go along in order to save Norman rule. As they travel north to the rebel’s stronghold, they are drawn together by more than a shared purpose, but they both fear that the disparity in their social class will doom any future together.

By Queen’s Grace is the third novel in the author’s series of romances featuring characters associated with the Wilmont family. While there are several references to incidents in the previous stories, readers do not have to have read the previous books in order to understand this one.

A frequent problem with extended family saga series is that the stories’ energies seem to decrease with volume and distance -- the series gradually seems to lose momentum with each succeeding book. The author’s challenge is to make each book seem fresh. By making Corwin, a Saxon, the hero of her third story, Ms. Anton brings a different perspective to the series. There are, however, still a number of links to the earlier stories, which occasionally seem to disrupt the story’s tempo -- those involving incidents of twins’ pain/mood connections particularly seem to be overdone.

Happily, the author doesn’t employ the Big Misunderstanding device in order to provide additional conflict for the hero and heroine. Corwin explains to Judith why he is pretending to join the rebellion at an early opportunity rather than waiting until a final, pivotal moment. The political circumstances provide sufficient external plot conflict that their attraction can develop in a climate of trust.

By Queen’s Grace (since the queen only plays a minor part in the narrative, the choice of title is a bit mystifying) is a pleasant, if not very exciting, story. The plot is straightforward without any unanticipated twists. The hero and heroine are nice characters, although a little bland. The primary villain is dishonorable and greedy but also on the bland side.

Readers who are looking for a book that won’t require much emotional investment may appreciate By Queen’s Grace.

--Lesley Dunlap


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