REVIEW: The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz
Dear Ms. Frantz,
Last year when I read “A Heart Adrift,” I wrote this in my review and I’m going to repeat it here as it applies to this book, too. “As I’ve tagged this with “inspirational,” I’ll go ahead and tell readers that yes there is a lot of faith in the story but that is because these are religious characters who hold their faith close but don’t preach at others. Rather they quote scripture to ease worries and grief.” But religion is also important in this story as it takes place leading up to and just after the Rising of 1715 when James Stuart attempted to regain his father’s throne which was lost in some part due to James II’s Catholic faith.
Lady Blyth (named after a river in Northumberland) Hedley is the only daughter of the powerful and wealthy Duke of Northumbria. Despite the freedom of practicing her Catholic faith openly, after a few months in France she’s longing for home. She returns to discover her Jacobite father plotting with others to supply arms and money to the “king across the water.” The Duke has planned ahead and when their home is stormed by rabble, Blyth and her maid flee across the Scottish border to the home of Blyth’s godparents.
Everard Hume has enough on his plate without a woman tainted by her father’s association with rebels. His own father has just died and Everard is the new laird and Earl of Wedderburn. But his father offered her sanctuary and Everard will abide by that regardless of whether or not Blyth wants to head straight back to England. In an effort to hide her identity, Blyth – who wears spectacles to read, knows many languages fluently, and amuses herself translating books from Greek to Latin to English – is announced as a tutor for Orin, the youngest Hume brother. The two of them soon form a close bond (I want a story for Orin pretty please!) and Blyth begins to settle into life among those she’s learning aren’t the savages so many English believe them to be.
Everard is also noticing Blyth who is noticing him right back even as they attempt to ignore their growing attraction. This fools no one but the two don’t rush into anything due to the uncertainty as politics and rumors are swirling. There is a scheming Other Woman but Everard is remarkably frank in his speech – something Blyth finds startling at first before warming to it – and as they tentatively reach for love, the two have some wonderful non-big-misunderstanding talks. They might be enjoying a border summer and early autumn but war is looming and soon Everard will have to do something he despises in order to save the person he loves.
Readers not fond of slow and leisurely books be warned. This one takes its time but also offers a detailed glimpse of life in the early 18th century in a Scottish border castle. No, it’s not all grim and haggis filled (though Blyth discovers a taste for that). The castle is beautifully appointed, has a garden that sounds delightful, a library Blyth dives into, and loyal servants proud of who and where they are. I wish a bit more time had been spent on the improvements Everard and his brothers are overseeing but enough is there to show the Humes care about the people in their charge.
The romance is a slow burn though Blyth and Everard are in each other’s company a lot and think of the other often. I could understand why they don’t rush into passionate clinches as there are other eventualities to think about. Blyth worries about her father on the run and how his actions could impact her. Everard has been a loyal soldier when Queen Anne was on the throne but the new Hanovarian king could dismiss all that should it become known the Humes are sheltering the daughter of a wanted Jacobite. This bit was eventually delved into, highlighting life under a monarch who could mess you up as he’d done his own wife in Celle. Once Blyth and Everard are committed, that’s it though, there is no other.
For most of the book, I was waiting for when the Rising would occur and how this was going to affect the MCs. Once this took center stage, it didn’t last too long so I would say the story is mainly the romance and view of life on the Scottish borderlands. I enjoyed it enough that even the (fairly skillful, if I do say) inclusion of Scottish brogue and language didn’t bother me. Before I finish, let me repeat I Want Orin’s Story. B