Margerie Croft is out of Henry VIII’s favor after she rejected his advances, but the king’s physician, Virgil Elton, finds her fascinating despite the scandal in her past. So they have a great deal of sex, for various reasons, throughout Elizabeth Moss’s Rose Bride.
According to its blurb, this book is Fifty Shades meets Philippa Gregory. The setting is certainly Gregory-esque, along with a palpable sense of the court’s transition from the time of Anne Boleyn to her very different successor. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, but some other heads were none too secure at that time either.
Unfortunately, the characters didn`t work for me. Margerie is nearly gang-raped twice—the story begins with her fleeing from a pack of men—and each time, she’s saved by either Virgil or the hero of some other book in the trilogy. The story assures me she has intelligent green eyes and fiery independence of spirit, but she’s nearly always bland and helpless. Even her first sexual encounter with Virgil happens because she sleepwalks, which is a convenient reason for her to drift about outdoors in a nightgown.
For his part, Virgil is concocting an aphrodisiac so the king can produce a son, but with His Majesty’s health at risk, Virgil tests the potion on himself. Of course, this means a woman must stand by to assuage the resulting urges. Now that’s what I call lying back and thinking of England. But the course of true sex and multiple orgasms never did run smooth, so matters are soon complicated by other characters, including Virgil’s betrothed. Yes, while he’s boffing Margerie senseless, he intends to marry a girl he considers his dearest friend. And how does he plan to treat her?
After all, once he was wedded to Christina— the thought was strange enough to make him uneasy— he would still have physical needs, and Christina was unlikely ever to be well enough to satisfy them. To keep a mistress at court was the obvious solution.
The Fifty Shades comparison is accurate, since the heroine is a passive sub while the hero is a jealous dom. The BDSM is consensual if consent is defined as submission to physical punishment in the hope that the other person will finally treat you with some kindness once the session is over. Margerie starts to enjoy herself halfway through this, because she’s aroused by anything Virgil does, but that doesn’t make it any less offensive. The erotic content outweighs any emotional connection, and even Virgil’s obligatory tragic past is something another character reveals to Margerie.
The story has some vivid descriptions, like a ditch being “bejeweled with flies”, but other turns of phrase are mind-numbingly repetitive. I lost count of the mentions of Margerie’s red hair, Margerie’s wantonness, and Virgil’s cock stiffening in his codpiece. I wasn’t exactly bored, because different people’s interference in Margerie’s and Virgil’s sex life make this something of a soap opera, but ultimately it’s a predictable and unengaging read. Then again, the series is called Lust In The Tudor Court, and that’s exactly what Rose Bride provides. As Miss Brodie put it, “for those who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they will like.”.