|Rose of Valinor escapes from her Uncle Richardís men in an attempt to find the storied Prince Florian of Venya. Her uncle is the King of Valinor and he was responsible for the invasion of Venya and the murder of Florianís parents, the King and Queen of Venya, eighteen years ago. Since then, Richard has crushed the people of Venya and tried to find the Prince. Florian, who was seven when he witnessed the death of his parents, escaped with the help of some of the royal advisors. He has been trained that it is his duty to avenge his parents and to restore the country of Venya.
Rose is the only living child of King Osric of Valinor, Richardís older brother. When her father died, Richard and his cruelty took over. Her young mother died under mysterious circumstances and Rose was mistreated to the point that she fears for her life. She sees Prince Florian as her last chance of escape.
Florian has become a pirate, preying on Valinorís ships to support Venyans who escaped the country and to raise money for arms to retake his country. He is celebrated in stories and songs as a great lover and fighter and has become the romantic ideal of the young women of the kingdoms. Rose is quite surprised when she finally finds him that he appears cold and suspicious of her. He also does not want to help her. He does, however, take her to his ship when Richardís henchmen find them.
Florian is a tormented man. He has spent his life with one goal; to liberate his country. His support from his own people is in serious decline. The elite filidhi, the people of Venya who have magical gifts, have resettled in another country and many of them have no urgency to return to Venya. The non-magical Venyans, the fheara, were unable to flee from Richardís cruelty and have suffered greatly. Richardís propaganda machine has managed to blame the hardships of the fheara on Florian, so he has lost much support from them. He discovers that the fheara have great respect for someone on his ship, Rose of Valinor. He is encouraged to use that respect to his advantage.
Rose has had to struggle most of her life. Her mother was a much younger second wife of the King. The first wife and three sons had died of a fever. Her mother was from a less civilized country and was given to the King as a political gesture. He had little time for his only remaining child. After her parentsí deaths, she spoke little and tried to stay out of the way, allowing people to think that she was not very smart. Her looks were not spectacular like Richardís daughters, so at first glance, most people thought of her as plain. In reality, she is very smart and has a strong sense of right and wrong. The Venyan fheara revere her because while living with her cousins in Venya, she secretly helped feed many people as well as made a public stand in front of Richardís soldiers. Now, she just wants to find somewhere safe and calm to live.
Minogue has created a multilayered world with many players. While the book spine lists this as an historical romance, it is more fantasy with fictitious countries, mages, predictive dreaming, magical gifts, and intelligent sea creatures. Political intrigue abounds. The romance between Rose and Florian develops despite each of their insecurities and all of the players who try to undermine it. A tormented man finds the one person who will let him be himself.
The author tries a little too hard to put a bit of everything in this one book and because of this, some of the background information is very sketchy and there are numerous story threads that are left up in the air. It certainly has the feel of a series. I can think of at least three obvious lead characters for future stories with another three or four more that could be developed after that. If this story line is developed into a series, I hope the next books spend a little more time explaining the background so that readers can have a better grasp of the world.
--B. Kathy Leitle