By sheerest coincidence I was just finishing Virginia Henley’s A Year and A Day when I received Infamous to review. The books were published eight years apart, and it seemed from the back cover blurb that this sequel was to have continued Marjory de Warenne’s romance with Robert Bruce after being forced (in the first book) to sacrifice their love so he could make a political marriage. Their secondary romance, after all, was the highlight of AYAAD…how would the author bring one of Scotland’s greatest heroes back into Jory’s life?
But Jory’s love story in Henley’s new book is not with Robert Bruce, it is with Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. And instead of this new book being a sequel to the earlier story, it is a re-telling of the earlier story from Jory’s point of view. And an unnecessary re-telling it is. Entire scenes are lifted, with very little tweaking, from AYAAD and plopped into the middle of Infamous with hurried and clumsily inserted exposition to help the reader understand what’s going on. The problem is that not much is going on. Oh yes, there are lots of battles – well researched and historically accurate – but they have very little bearing on the love story.
There is precious little plot to this book, as well as very little love between Guy and Jory, who appears to have undergone a lobotomy because very little is left of the character I so liked and admired in the earlier book.
The book is divided into four parts and Guy is only a fleeting presence in the first, though he is central to the fourth. The middle two chronicle the events of AYAAD, Jory’s marriage to her first husband, and then her relationship with Robert Bruce.
At the beginning of Infamous, Jory sneaks into a bathhouse disguised as a servant so she can get a glimpse of a naked man to satisfy her curiosity. Well, the man she sees is Guy de Beauchamp and Jory, a virgin at this point, sets out to seduce him so that she can experience orgasmic bliss before being shuffled off into a political alliance of her brother and her uncle’s choosing. Guy is happy to oblige her until he discovers that she is a virgin, and then he insists that he loves her and will ask her guardians for her hand.
Jory’s guardians overule her wishes and she submits to a comfortable marriage with a young lord (who, of course, fails to bring Jory to Orgasmic Bliss) and who is conveniently killed off not long after. Guy is told that Jory made the decision to marry someone else on her own, while Jory is never even told that Guy asked for her hand. The Big Misunderstanding ensues.
Jory has an affair with Robert Bruce after her husband dies, and this is my chief qualm; their affair does not bear any resemblance to how Henley represented it in the earlier book. In AYAAD their relationship is everything that one could hope for in a romance; Robert is an amazing hero, and Jory is a strong and independent woman. In this tawdry retelling, Robert is shown to be a selfish cad, and Jory (worst of all!) becomes a clingy, TSTL, manipulative woman who doesn’t mean a word she says. In AYAAD there is an incredibly touching scene where the two are in bed, and though she loves him with all her soul, she sets him free so that he can do what is best for Scotland. In Infamous that same scene is duplicated almost exactly, only this time Jory’s thoughts are shown to us and we see that while she’s telling Robert to leave her, inside she’s screaming “Pick me over Scotland!” That scene completely undermined the strong character I had so loved.
Henley’s writing style is also problematic in that she tends to tell rather than show. Guy and Jory fall in love, practically at first sight, but we have absolutely no reason to believe that they are in love, or even why they are in love – except for the author assuring us time and time again that it is so. Jory’s behavior is so at odds with her character in the earlier book I’m left wondering if she was kidnapped by aliens and a pod-person took her place.
The Big Mis that readers can see (but Jory, who took stupid pills between the two books, can’t) coming a mile away keeps Guy and Jory apart for most of the book. I’m not just talking about keeping their relationship apart – their actual paths don’t cross for nearly half the book, which seems an odd way to conduct a romance.
Anyone who enjoyed Jory in A Year and a Day should stay far away from Infamous. If you prefer history and battles to romance, this may work for you, but as a romance novel it sure to be a horrible disappointed.