Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lady Claire's Cavalier by Fiona Neal

TITLE: Lady Claire’s Cavalier
AUTHOR: Fiona Neal
PUBLISHER: Awe-Struck Publishing
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 91k)
GENRE: Historical romance
COST: $4.99

At the age of twelve, Lady Claire was forced to flee England, in order to protect her inheritance from golddiggers. Though she weds an elderly friend of the family, it’s merely to shield her. His death drives her back after ten long years, but when she overhears a plot to assassinate the new king, Charles II, Claire is thrust into service in ways she never expected. The prime suspect is her family’s oldest enemy, and the only man she has ever met who has made her feel like a woman. Lord Barrington doesn’t want to have to marry Claire, but when the king gives an order, you don’t say no…

The opening automatically makes the reader empathetic with the heroine. In the prologue, we meet a twelve-year-old Claire visiting her mother for the last time before fleeing the country. Her mother has been accused of killing her father, a crime she claims to be innocent of, and unbeknownst to Claire, this will be the last time she ever sees her mother, as it’s very obvious to the reader that the woman would rather die than be subjected to the horrors of being found guilty, an inevitable judgment. Even though it cuts to ten years later, that initial feeling of empathy for Claire carries over, as she has grown up into a graceful, genteel, thoughtful young woman. She has a mixed reputation; society thinks she has killed her elderly husband. On the other hand, they recognize that she’s beautiful and the wealthiest woman in England, which makes her a desirable match. It’s a very thin line she manages to balance wonderfully.

The chemistry that sparks between Claire and Christopher (Lord Barrington) is hot from the start. The fact that they’re supposed to be enemies helps, even if it’s a tad clichéd. But neither personality falls into a stereotype, so the story never gets bogged by the cliché and instead can roll forward with lovely, sensual romance as they each struggle against the attraction and the misunderstandings about how dangerous the other one is. Some of these misunderstandings seem a little extreme. Christopher, especially, seems very quick to assume the worst of Claire, even with his past taken into consideration. Once or twice, I wanted to slap some sense into him, but overall, he still managed to redeem himself.

The mystery of the possible assassination attempt is built in layers, with no easy answers in sight. Each time there’s another development, more stress gets added to the characters and their relationships, making me wonder just how they’re going to sustain it. I felt more than once that they would break under the strain, but their strength shone through, in heartwarming, sensual ways. I have to admit to gasping out loud when the truth of the mysteries is revealed, but after all was explained, I’m not convinced it was the most satisfying conclusion. It lacked a certain credibility, even if it did make logical sense. But in spite of that, this was still a genuinely romantic, emotional ride.


8/10 – Some of the historical detail parts are dense and dry, but otherwise, it sucked me in.


8/10 – Charming and appropriately wary without seeming too over the top too often


8/10 – Love how level-headed she is, though her dedication to the king sometimes annoyed me

Entertainment value

8/10 – Solid romance plus an engaging mystery (even if I didn’t completely buy the resolution)

World building

10/10 – Some fantastic details, very rich



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