Lord of Danger
Anne Stuart’s Prince of Danger is so well written that it took me awhile to determine why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have. This author is an expert story-teller and it is easy to become caught up in her mastery. In fact, I whipped through the first half of this book before I knew it. But it was also at that time when I realized that the professed passionlessness of the hero had, to some degree, transferred itself to me. So while I was intrigued by the story, I wasn’t nearly as intrigued by the lead characters as I should have been, as I could have been.
Luckily, the author provided enough glimpses of passion in Simon Navarre, and in such uniquely touching ways, that I was willing to go the distance for him, to see how his story was resolved, especially since his heroine, Lady Alys, was such an unusual character herself.
In this, Anne Stuart’s first medieval, she has written the tale of two sisters, Alys and Claire, whose half-brother Richard has designs on the throne, and seeks to use Simon Navarre, his confidant and mystical magician, to kill the boy king. Richard the Fair is anything but; he is ruled by a troika of passions – power, greed, and lust. Simon, an enigmatic figure who cloaks himself with an aura of dangerous mysticism, believes himself to be an opportunist, willing to go along with Richard’s schemes in order to enrich his own purse.
Into this spider’s web of intrigue and evil come Alys and Claire, one of them offered to Simon as a way to bind him to Richard. Alys appears mousy, plain, and altogether forgettable. Claire is a butterfly. Each of them assumes Simon will choose Claire, but he is drawn to Alys instead, and what a match she is for him!
I enjoyed Alys and Simon, but on more of an intellectual level than an emotional one. For emotion, I was able to turn to Claire and Sir Thomas, one of Richard’s knights. Thomas has been cuckolded by his wife. His response? Turn all those seething hormones into seething religious fervor, condemn all women as wantons, and, if possible, wear a hair shirt. He has been able to suppress normal male desires until confronted with Claire, who rouses his ire and his libido. Their relationship is the more typical found in romance, and, as well, the more accessible on an emotional level.
Watching Alys and Simon come together with the interference of Richard and his malevolent schemes, is a bit like playing chess. A great deal of patience is necessary, and the pay-offs are often intellectual rather than emotional. But in the end, the reader will be able to hear Alys and Simon go off into the darkness saying, “Check and mate.”
I make it a point to give authors the benefit of the doubt when they’ve written a book that is better than a previous effort. Lord of Danger is certainly more compelling than the author’s last historical release, Prince of Swords. Still, it does not pack the emotional wallop that A Rose at Midnight did, which I awarded DIK status.
A Rose at Midnight was such a powerful read because, although the hero professed to be amoral and immoral, there were many glimpses of his humanity. There was also such intense passion and chemistry between the lead characters that Anne Stuart’s historicals are an automatic buy for me. My problem with Prince of Swords was that the hero was almost lacking passion in his amorality. Simon Navarre’s amorality and lack of passion is merely a pretense, but the reader will have to be careful or she will miss the exquisite moments where the author reveals his human qualities and his goodness.
I recommend Lord of Danger cautiously. The emotions to be found in this book with the lead characters are there – you just have to search for them. If you prefer such things to be out in the open, this book might not be for you. But if you are willing to look for some wonderful small moments, and enjoy strong secondary romances, this book might should do the trick.