Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Review: Mistress to the Crown by Isolde Martyn


The day Lord Hastings came into her husband’s store, Elizabeth saw the opportunity she had waited twelve years for — a way to separate herself once and for all from her dull, impotent husband, William Shore. The handsome stranger presented not only the chance to partake in the dance of desire, but legal counsel to annul her 12-year marriage.

She did not, however, foresee her introduction to the King of England, nor her future at his side…and in his bed. From this unlikely alliance, Elizabeth is granted severance from Shore, and finds herself flourishing in the radiance of the King’s admiration. But she soon finds that her new position comes at a terrible price — her family has shunned her, the people of London have labelled her a harlot and the Queen’s family want her to burn in Hell.

So long as King Edward and Lord Hastings stay close, Elizabeth is safe. However, her beloved Ned falls ill and Lord Hastings falls out of favour.

Can Elizabeth's wiles keep her out of trouble? Or will they lead her to further trouble...and the hangman's noose?

Harlequin Enterprises Australia | February 1, 2013

My Review

3.5 Stars

Mistress to the Crown introduces readers to Elizabeth Lambard, who is best known to history as Jane Shore, mistress of English King Edward IV.   The novel follows Elizabeth's life from the time of her marriage to merchant William Shore as teenager, to the start of her second marriage shortly after the death of King Edward. 

Told from Elizabeth's perspective, the novel paints a vivid and plausible portrait of a woman about whom very little is known.  Elizabeth is characterized as intelligent, resourceful and independent, and it is easy for the reader to feel sympathy for her.  While Elizabeth is a strong, well-developed character, I think the development of the novel's other principal characters, such as Will Hastings and King Edward, suffer somewhat from the author's use of first person narrative, which prevents the reader from understanding the motivations and behaviours of any character but Elizabeth.  The use of first person narrative also prevents the author from going into great depth with respect to some of the political events that took place during Edward's reign.  While this is understandable considering Elizabeth would likely not have been privy to the inner workings of Edward's court, readers do miss out on some historical context.  Nevertheless, I do think Martyn does a satisfactory job in evoking a sense of time and place.   The only real issue I had with this novel was the sex scenes, which I felt overdone and more in line with would be found in a romance novel than in a work of historical fiction - thankfully there weren't as many of them as I would have expected given the novel is about a King's mistress!

Overall, Mistress to the Crown is a well-written novel that should appeal to readers interested in late medieval England, as well as those who enjoy novels with strong female protagonists. 

Note: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.