The Harlot's Daughter
Despite an intriguing setting and a unique plot, The Harlot’s Daughter lacked one element that I find essential to any romance – romance. I s-o-o-o-o long for an intriguing Medieval and, while Gifford’s book is interesting, it fell short of that aspiration.
Lady Joan of Weston, otherwise known as Solay, is the daughter of the King’s former mistress later stripped of all assets by Parliament. Solay, practically her mother’s pawn, comes to court to gain the compassion of the King so he will provide a grant that will allow her family to survive. Since her survival depends on her ability to please, she goes to great lengths to make those she relies upon happy, even if it’s through deception or the use of her body.
Lord Justin Lamont is a man whose loyalty belongs to the law at a time when Parliament forced the King to submit to the oversight of Council for which Justin serves. As a result, the King’s spending must be approved by the Council, and one of his requests is a small grant to Solay and her family. Since it is Justin’s duty to keep Solay from receiving the grant, a struggle for power ensues.
Solay and Justin experience a connection from the moment they first lay eyes on each other. However, he sees her no differently than he sees her mother – as a harlot. From the beginning he works to prevent her from receiving the very thing she needs for her family’s survival. To him, her deceptions are obvious and he believes she is incapable of telling the truth. She, on the other hand, acknowledges the fact that he is blinded by the law and believes that truth always delivers justice.
In the course of trying to outmaneuver one another, the two end up betrothed, albeit with conditions. For Justin to consent to marriage, Solay must prove that she loves him. For the King’s arrangement of the betrothal, he demands a price from Solay that she struggles to fulfill. As the situation for both becomes more dire due to the political intrigue of court, Justin’s love for the law and Solay’s involvement with royalty continue to shape how they deal with each other.
The biggest problem I had with this book stems from the lack of romance between the characters. I bought into Solay’s character completely and found her admirable. In a time when women were esentially chattel, she does what she must to survive. When Justin becomes the key to her future, she places her family first and does what she can, yet not in any way does she become the victim. Justin, who is dedicated to the law, sees all issues as right or wrong. He demands much of Solay, but he does nothing to earn what she wholeheartedly gives. Ultimately, I can’t understand how Solay ever fell in love with him.
I was also disappointed with the lack of detail. The meeting between the couple was immediate and the issues surrounding the court intrigue seemed too quickly resolved, causing me to doubt the HEA for the couple.
However, The Harlot’s Daughter is unique to me in terms of plot. This is the first Medieval I’ve read in which the hero is not a knight or noble, but a man of the courts of law. I also found the intrigue of the King’s court interesting.
Had the hero been more sympathetic, this would have been a much better book. If there had been more romance in this romance, this would have been a much better book. As it was, this Medieval didn’t live up to its promise and ultimately disappointed me.