Moonlight and Shadow
Perhaps anticipation got the better of me, but Moonlight and Shadow wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. The book is set during an incredibly interesting period of history involving the houses of Lancaster and York – a favorite period of history for me. Though Martyn’s use of historical figures greatly inhanced the story, which is filled with a good deal of political wrangling and subterfuge on both sides, the “romance” component in the historical romance equation fell flat.
Heloise Ballaster has a difficult life. She has the gift of second sight and her visions are often disturbing. Her hair, a beautiful color of silver, needs to be kept covered or else she will have to suffer being thought a witch and possibly burned for heresy. Her cruel father wants nothing more than to be rid of her and hits on a cunning plan in the form of Sir Miles Rushden. Miles is advisor to the Duke of Buckingham and has grand ambitions at Court. While trying to help his father get back a family home, Miles meets Heloise. She is, of course, dressed like a man at the time and he, of course, thinks she’s a man, but finds out differently soon enough.
Sir Dudley, Heloise’s father, is simply horrible. He kidnaps Miles, has him marry Heloise and then when Miles escapes (with Heloise’s help), throws her out of the house and wants nothing more to do with her. Heloise ends up journeying to the Duke of Buckingham’s home in Wales. There she takes on the guise of Lady Haute, who has come to be governess to the Duke’s son Ned. Honestly, I have no idea why Heloise decides to play around with this case of mistaken identity or why the household assumes that she is Lady Haute. In general, I am not a fan of mistaken identity plot lines. I always just want to stand up and shout out whom the person actually is. And it always seems to me that the situation could be explained easily enough, and I never get why anyone goes along with it in the first place.
When Miles finally arrives, he is none too pleased to see her (or so we’re led to believe) but he does keep her secret. Miles is supposed to be marrying another so it’s a waiting game for his marriage to Heloise to be annulled. While this is going on, he and Heloise dance around each other. They like each other… but not really. They lust after each other… but not really. Obviously there’s a supposed spark between them, but I never felt it, and as a result, found most of their conversations frustrating.
When the king dies and a new one is to be crowned, the action moves to London and while the political intrigues were pretty interesting, the romantic ones were not. Heloise and Miles decide to stay married – but is it love, or something else?
Heloise is a likable heroine. She’s smart, brave and is quite aware of her precarious position, not only as Miles’ wife but also as someone who has visions. She lives in constant fear of being found out and labeled a heretic. She’s kind and does the best she can, based on her position. I found Miles harder to get to know. Incredibly ambitious and quite the force to be reckoned with, he remained an elusive character to me. Despite all his blustering about wanting to be rid of Heloise, it’s easy to see that’s not true, and when he becomes her protector, he throws himself into the job.
The history and real historical characters were enjoyable in Moonlight and Shadow, so enjoyable, in fact, that the romance paled in comparison. Despite the fact that Heloise and Miles were decent characters, they never really came alive for me – as individuals or as a couple. Still, I would definitely try another book by this author in the hope of finding more accessible fictional characters along with the historical ones.