Thursday, January 16, 2014

Beware Your Carnal Desires

"I was neither surprised nor shocked. 
Nor was I reduced to easy tears. 
I had come a long way from the girl who had stood beside him in the church at Troyes. 
I had more confidence than the girl who had feared sitting alone at her own coronation feast."
--Anne O'Brien, The Forbidden Queen

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Harelquin MIRA
Pages: 496
Publication Date: January 28th, 2014
Source: eARC provided by publisher via NetGalley--thanks!
Find on Goodreads
Previous Books in Series: Standalone 
Goodreads Description

1415. The jewel in the French crown, Katherine de Valois, is waiting under lock and key for King Henry V. While he's been slaughtering her kinsmen in Agincourt, Katherine has been praying for marriage to save her from her misery. But the brutal king wants her crown, not her innocent love.

For Katherine, England is a lion's den of greed, avarice and mistrust. And when she is widowed at twenty-one, she becomes a prize ripe for the taking—her young son the future monarch, her hand in marriage worth a kingdom.

This is a deadly political game, one the dowager queen must learn fast. The players—the Duke of Gloucester, Edmund Beaufort and Owen Tudor—are circling. Who will have her? Who will ruin her? This is the story of Katherine de Valois.

The Belle
The Beginning. The beginning of this novel really grabbed me. I LOVE historical fiction and I will take almost any chance I get to be back into the world of gowns and jerkin and the rules of court. The start of this novel introduces Katherine of Valois, her unconventional childhood, and the negotiations of her marriage to Henry V. I was definitely enchanted by the opening of this book and for most of the first half of the book. The first 50% was engaging, descriptive, fast-paced in regards to a historical fiction novel, and I (who knew next to nothing about these players in history) was invested into reading about what happens next...that changed after the first 50%

Katherine. We get to know our heroine, Katherine, pretty quickly. I loved seeing how she grew up and it really sets up her entire psyche for the rest of the novel. Her insecurities, her fears, her longings to be loved, your heart goes out to her. I found myself really rooting for her to be loved by those she cares about. I LOVED seeing her growth as a woman. She really comes into her and comes quite a long way from the meek little girl she started out as. I love stories of personal growth and Katherine is just that. She finds her strength though trials and tribulations and, most of all, heartache. Her character is completely endearing (more often than not) and I identified with her desire to know what love feels like. Don't we all. 
The Beast
The Pace. Like I said, I found myself whipping through the first half of this novel. But looking back at the overall arc of the story, the pacing was totally off. So HISTORY SPOILER ALERT EVEN THOUGH IT REVEALS IT IN THE SYNOPSIS, Henry V dies at about 50% in. After that we spend a lengthy amount of time on an affair with a member of the court that results in heartbreak for poor Katherine. Then we spend too little time on the man she actually falls in love with and the end of the novel felt rushed and we sped through years of time within on sentence. I think the book overall is too long, there were parts of it that could have been completely cut out because I felt bored at several points in the story. The pacing felt equivalent to a person driving a stick shift car that doesn't know what their doing. Jumps forward, stalls, jumps forward a bit more, stalls, etc..

The Court. Court was LIFE in London at this time. I felt like it was a huge part of history that was ignored. She talks about the court in a very periphery way. It was there but there weren't a lot of details surrounding it until Edmund came around. Where were they before that? Who is holding court? It had to be Katherine seeing as she was Dowager Queen but it was almost as if the court found her. I didn't like how it seemed like after Henry died she was closed up in a drafty castle all by herself. I know she was supposed to be seen and not heard from, but still, it seemed odd.

The Epilogue. While it tugged at my heart strings it came out of nowhere. I mean, it made sense with her history but it felt out of place and forced. I didn't vibe with this ending at all.
Should You RSVP To This Ball?
Meh. I liked reading about this period in time because I didn't know a lot about it. I probably would have enjoyed it more and be loving it if the pacing was better and more focus was on the men who were actually important in her life overall. 

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