Thursday, April 12, 2012

YA Historical Fiction: The Lacey Chronicles by Eve Edwards

Title: The Other Countess
Series: Lacey Chronicles #1
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Date: July 2010 (UK); July 2011 (US)
Format: hardback
Acquired: from Random Buzzers
Read: because the sequel was about to be released
Pages: 335
Reading time: two days

From GoodReads: England, 1582. Ellie—Lady Eleanor Rodriguez, Countess of San Jaime—possesses a worthless title, but her feisty spirit captivates the elite of the Queen's court—especially the dashing new Earl of Dorset. William Lacey, Earl of Dorset, has inherited his father's title—and his financial ruin. Now Will must seek a wealthy bride and restore his family's fortune. If only he hadn't fallen for the beautiful but penniless Ellie. . . Sparks fly whenever Ellie and Will are together, but circumstances—and the conniving interference of others—threaten to keep them apart.

My review: I thought The Other Countess would turn out to be just another stereotypical Tudor romance, but it started out strong. Ellie is a different heroine, bookish and scholarly rather than concerned with marriage and appearances. Though I could have done without the implied sex scenes between other characters, the plot of the novel was quite interesting, incorporating historical details such as the conflicts between Anglicans and Catholics without becoming centered upon Elizabeth and her famous court. Unfortunately, however, the story eventually turned into the usual historical romance. I found Ellie's character wavering, losing its initial bookishness and interest in learning. The romantic plot followed the same basic elements as every other romantic plot, and the ending felt rushed. I was also a bit upset over the brief depiction of Ellie's Puritan side of the family, which came off as being unnecessarily negatively stereotypical in their dogmas and hypocritical actions.

Title: The Queen's Lady
Series: Lacey Chronicles #2
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Date: February 2011 (UK); April 10, 2012 (US)
Format: ARC
Acquired: from Random Buzzers
Read: because it's close to the US release date
Pages: 313
Reading time: one day

From GoodReads: England, 1584. When beautiful Lady Jane Rievaulx begins her service to the Queen at Richmond Palace, she is thrilled to see the court's newest arrival . . . Master James Lacey. No matter that Jane was previously courted by the eldest Lacey brother—James is the one who has won her heart. For his part, James cannot deny his fascination with Jane; his plans, however, do not allow for love. He is about to set sail on a treacherous journey to the Americas, seeking absolution for what he sees as past sins. But when Jane is forced into a terrible situation by her own family, only one man can save her. Will Master James return to his lady before it's too late?

My review: Probably one of the most interesting things in this series for me is that it follows the men, not the women, of a family, yet the stories are told primarily from the woman's viewpoint. The Queen's Lady skips over a year of time since the conclusion to The Other Countess, which I felt made Jane's actions initially come off as superficial and flighty. Even though she had good reasons for her actions, they were not very clearly expressed and developed due to the skipped time. Jane, like Ellie in the first book, comes off as a different character than expected. Jane was first introduced in The Other Countess as a vain girl concerned only with marrying a rich, old man for his money and quick death, but she quickly proves to have a deeper character trapped by the constraints of Tudor society and her family.

Plot-wise, The Queen's Lady turned out to be the opposite of The Other Countess. Jane became a more interesting character as the story progressed, and I became more, rather than less, absorbed in the plot. Of particular interest was James' voyage to the North American coast with Sir Walter Raleigh. Towards the end, however, the storyline began to drag. More and more events were tacked on to the ending to wrap up the plot, which just made me wish the book would end already. The third book in the series will follow an illegitimate half-brother of the Laceys rather than the expected third son, however, so despite my disappointments with the series I'll likely pick up the next book should I run across a copy.

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