Kissed By Shadows
Kissed By Shadows was a smoothly written book. There was no laugh inducing purple prose and no awkward sentences jerked me out of my reading. Technically, I have nothing to complain about.
Gentle Reader: “So why isn’t the grade higher”?
O.K., I’ll explain.
Lady Phillipa Nielson is a member of the Mary Tudor’s court. As a friend of Princess Elizabeth, she is relegated to the outskirts of the court, now dominated by Mary’s husband, Phillip of Spain, and his courtiers, including Lionel Ashton, an Englishman who is a Spanish sympathizer. Pippa is married to Stuart Neilson. While Pippa is a realist and knows that theirs was not a love match, she can’t help but be numbed by Stuart’s coldness. He spends little time with her, he is formal and polite, he has never even kissed her, and he only makes love to her at night when she is asleep. Pippa knows this from the evidence on her body, but she doesn’t remember anything.
Gentle Reader: “I’ve heard of deep sleepers, but really – she can’t remember?”
Yes, and the reason Pippa can’t remember is that she has been drugged every night. And it’s not Stuart who is having sex with her, it’s Phillip of Spain. Mary Tudor is ill and aging and not likely to have a child. The Spanish want a child of Mary and Phillip so that the throne will not go to Elizabeth, and they plan on passing off Pippa’s child as Mary and Phillip’s.
Gentle Reader: “But, why is Stuart allowing this?”
Stuart is being blackmailed. He’s homosexual and is afraid the Spanish will come after him or his lover if he doesn’t go along with them.
Gentle Reader: “O.K., but who’s this Lionel person”?
He’s the hero. Quit laughing, he is. Lionel is going along with all this because he has his own agenda against the Spanish whom he hates since they burned his sister at the stake. When Pippa finds out that Stuart is a lover of men, she comes crying to Lionel, he gives her pity sex, and they become lovers. No, he doesn’t tell her about the plot – yet.
Gentle Reader: “Well, is this an alternate history romance?”
No, and there’s the rub. Yes, this is a romance and we know that there will be an HEA for Lionel and Pippa but since we know that Mary died childless, and that Elizabeth came to the throne, there’s no real suspense from that quarter. Now if I had only liked the characters….
Gentle Reader: “What do you mean”?
Well, Lionel was not exactly heroic. I kept picturing him as this dark glowering figure, as fanatical in his way as the Spanish. He kept Pippa in the dark for far too long, I never did figure out his attraction to her, and when he finally did confess his love, I was not moved. As for Pippa, she simply did not register with me.
Gentle Reader: “Didn’t you like any of the characters?”
Well yes, I liked Pippa’s brother Robin. He had a lot of charm and character and his secondary romance with Luisa, Lionel’s ward was sweet. The scene where she told him he needed to clean up was funny; Robin was the kind of man who thought smelling like sweat and horses was not so bad, but for Luisa he took a bath and made his valet clean his clothes.
Gentle Reader:“So will anyone like this book?
Yes, if you are a reader who likes the Tudor period, a plot with lots of Intrigue, and don’t mind a hero who isn’t all that heroic, you’ll probably love this one. As for me, I don’t like the Tudors, I didn’t like Pippa and Lionel, and I could not get over Pippa thinking she slept through sex night after night after night. So I’m afraid Kissed By Shadows left me cold.