The Queen's Man
I enjoyed Terri Brisbin’s debut book, A Love Through Time, quite a lot, but I closed her third novel disappointed. The characters never connected with me, which made it really hard to care about them.
Sharon Reynolds is a museum curator specializing in ancient clothing. Her reputation is in tatters because of a jealous coworker who wants her job. While inspecting some clothes in England, she finds papers stating that Elizabeth was not the heir to the throne, but that a son raised to believe he was one of Henry’s bastards was the true heir. Awash in sympathy, Sharon gets thrown back to Tudor times.
Mistaken for another “Sharon Reynolds,” she is taken to court as one of Elizabeth’s seamstresses. There she meets Richard Granville when he saves her from being trampled by a horse. Richard is known as something of a rake and is one of Henry’s bastards. He and Sharon are attracted to each other. Sharon decides she was sent back to find the true heir, and sets about her task while trying to fit into court life.
I never formed an emotional bond with either of these characters. Sharon didn’t seem particularly intelligent. She made an assumption about why she was there, then wandered around doing her work and fighting her attraction to Richard. About halfway through, she decided that maybe she ought to actually look for the guy. It took her half a book to figure that out? She sewed, she thought, she talked to her maid and she fought her attraction to Richard for the first half of the book.
I didn’t find Richard particularly heroic. He was up front with Sharon about his attraction to her, and he was mostly charming. But there was one particular night when he deliberately tried to get Sharon drunk (and did), and to have his way with her. While he gave her pleasure and went without himself, I still didn’t think his motivation was particularly honorable (and though Sharon later admitted that she wanted it did not mitigate this).
I also never felt the attraction between Richard and Sharon. There didn’t seem to be any chemistry or much reason for their attraction. Sharon thought Richard was a rake and had seen him with a wench on the way to an attempted assignation. They were making out on page 88 after spending only one full day getting to know each other. One other thing I found odd about their relationship is that almost all the love scenes were from Richard’s point of view. A novel idea, perhaps, but not altogether effective. If only the author had created as nice a relationship for Sharon and Richard as she did in the nice secondary romance between Sharon’s maid, Patricia, and Richard’s young groom, John.
Despite the lack of chemistry, though, once the author established that they were in love, they truly seemed to care for each other and stood up for each other. When Richard was in trouble, Sharon went to help him. When Sharon’s life was at stake, Richard bargained for it with a poignant sacrifice.
There’s pretty much only one way this book can end, so it’s not particularly suspenseful. In fact, a good portion of the early part could have been cut and the pacing would have been much better. Once the resolution approaches, the pace does pick up considerably; I was actually engaged in the story towards the end. That said, however, it simply took too long to get there.
This was a difficult book to finish. While this is clearly a historical what-if, I found myself continually questioning the plausibility of the storyline; since plausibility is already an issue in any time travel romance, this did not help matters. I’m going to chalk this up to not connecting with the characters and give Brisbin’s next story another try.