July 18, 2011

All The World's A Stage (Review: The Rogue's Princess; E. Edwards)


The Rogue's Princess (The Other Countess)The Rogue's Princess
Eve Edwards
Puffin 2011

Mercy Hart is as good as they come... or at least she's trying very hard to be. Brought up in a strict, if not unkind, family she has been imbued with her father's Puritanical values since birth and strives to uphold his beliefs both privately and in the public arena. The thing is, Mercy often feels that she's failing rather dreadfully – be it the unruly hair escaping from her coif or her guilty yen for pretty clothes, she can't quite seem to resign herself to a holy yet drab future. However, she's doing pretty well until she attends an evening at a friends hours and encounters the enigmatic Christopher Turner. Kit is a man of the theatre – walking the boards and streets with equal drama he is slowly making a name for himself, and not just as the illegitimate brother of the Earl of Dorset. While most definitely a ladies man, he is surprised when a quiet puritan's daughter quite suddenly takes his breath away. Mercy and Kit are therefore set on a path that neither ever expected to be upon but both are determined to pursue despite family disapproval, murky political intrigue and a complete unawareness of how the other half lives...

Both Mercy and Kit have equal time spent upon them during The Rogue's Princess and this provides readers plenty of time to enjoy their often hilariously differences. Mercy is the epitome of goodness, dutifully spending her days praying and studying the scripture. W hen she's not doing these things she's generally thinking that she should be. She's a very sweet character, although sometimes rather annoyingly na├»ve. Her character development is believable, from her initial swooning over Kit to her slow realisation that she needn't compromise her faith nor her ability to be true to herself just because she has fallen in love. Like all the female characters in Eve Edwards series of Elizabethan books she displays true backbone – and because she starts of so quietly it's extremely satisfying to see her come into her own.

Kit is a joy to read. First introduced in The Queen's Lady as a larger than life, somewhat angry young man, he has mellowed slightly in the intervening months. While certainly still ebullient he is clearly on easier terms with his personal history and certainly with his half brothers, the Laceys. However, rather than rely on his wealthy relatives he has continued to make his name upon the stage, regularly performing at The Globe under his mentor, Burbage. Kit is often very funny, his every action dramatic, his every garment garish but he is also a touching character to read. His sweet determination to woo Mercy regardless of convention is charmingly innocent for a man so aware of the very distinct societal fault-lines of Elizabethan England. Equally charming is the relationship he has with his half brothers, particularly young Tobias – their interactions are funny, believable and rather lovely.

As with her earlier Elizabethan stories (The Last Countess and The Queen's Lady), Eve Edwards has kept her story deceptively simple and, at heart, rather predictable. Kit and Mercy are clearly destined to be together and there are no real surprises in store on that count – however, it is the subtly clever roads that Edwards leads her characters down that make her stories so completely readable. While it could be argued that the romance in The Rogue's Princess is rather rushed, it's speedy commencement merely leaves room to add in more interesting aspects. Elizabeth I still looms large over London and has become increasingly paranoid in recent times. While her Scottish cousin, Mary, languishes under lock and key the Queen is determined to hunt down any who oppose her and it is into these choppy and dangerous political times that Kit and Mercy, as well as the Lacey's find themselves wading.

As previously, Eve Edwards has the ability to weave fascinating history into the lightest of stories and yet never veer towards incongruity. In addition to the political scene of the day, she has added the usual wealth of historical detail – her descriptions of fashions, living conditions and societal expectations continue to be a delight to read. Equally, her characters are beautifully drawn from the central twosome and familiar Lacey's to master Player Burbage and a dubiously hopeful young playwright going by the name of Will Shakespeare. As with The Other Countess and The Queen's Lady, I sat down to read The Rogue's Princess with some doubt in my mind – as I keep insisting, historical fiction just isn't my bag, baby - yet it is impossible to not be drawn into these charming stories that are on one hand gloriously fluffy and on the other intriguingly interesting, I will certainly be reading whatever comes next.

The Rogue's Princess is available now, thank you to Puffin for sending me a copy to review. Additionally, if you're a UK book blogger then keep an eye on the new look UKBT for a tour of this title.


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