REVIEW: By Love’s Command by Helen Carras
Dear Ms Carras,
This one starts out as a tad more like a historical novel than a historical romance. Kind of in the Plaidy/Lofts style. But the second half turns up the romance.
It’s 1558 and 17 year old Jean Hamilton is a spirited Highland lass who’s been sent to the French court to wait on her sovereign Queen, Mary Stuart. At 14 Mary is still more a girl than a Queen and the two form a friendship as Jean begins to learn her way around the sumptuous royal palaces and the intrigues that abound in them. She has an up close view of the political maneuvering among France, Scotland, England and Spain in which royal personages are just so many chess pieces to be wielded in marriages and alliances. There is one man she can’t get out of her mind and heart, a handsome young Englishman named Thomas Randolph who travels to the various courts of Europe in the official service of his Queen, Mary Tudor and with the secret friendship of his friend, Elizabeth Tudor.
When she is taken prisoner by an English privateer during her Channel crossing back to Scotland, Thomas comes to her rescue and takes her for safe keeping back to his Oxfordshire home. But the new Queen Elizabeth desires to learn first hand about her royal Stuart cousin and Jean is called to London where she becomes an unwilling lady-in-waiting to the imperious monarch. But fate isn’t through with Jean and Thomas yet and they find themselves in Scotland and embroiled in further backstage politics before finally finding their happy ending.
I liked Jean Hamilton bunches. She’s sometimes naive but is intelligent and never TSTL. She starts out as an impressionable 17 year old but quickly begins to form her own opinions and settle for less than her due. I’d have liked to have seen more of Thomas’s POV but what we do see is an honorable man who loves Jean enough to dream of their future even though things look grim and he fears that he might have to give up any hope for them. They both face the realities of the number of obstacles in their path and never act like idiots who blithely believe that sheer love alone will conquer all.
The details we see of the important personages and events of the day are meticulous and conform to the history of the period that I’ve read. You don’t use them as mere wall paper but integrate them into the story. I know that this book is about a specific time not just because you tell me it is but because you show me it is. However, there is a 100 page section during which the hero and heroine are separated and the heroine is courted by another. Also, the very detail that shows you know the period might be tedious for some. Overall, I give it a strong B+.