Fans of Kiera Cass’ Selection series won’t want to miss The Glittering Court, book one in Richelle Mead’s trilogy of the same title. It’s a captivating story of forbidden love set against the backdrop of a world not so different from Great Britain and America.
Our heroine is a young noblewoman, determined to live life on her own terms. Since her family’s fortune is waning, her grandmother is arranging a marriage for her. It’s a quite unsatisfying match, and this rather unconventional young miss is desperately seeking a way out.
Enter Cedric Thorn, an enterprising young man who is in search of young women who want to start new lives in the uncivilized land of Adoria. He meets our heroine while he is attempting to talk her maid into becoming a part of his business venture. The maid is a bit put off, but her mistress knows this is just the chance she needs. She pays the servant off, and assumes the identity of Adelaide Bailey, sure she’ll never have to set foot in Osfrid again.
You’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned the heroine’s real name, and there’s a good reason for that. At first, the fact that the author doesn’t reveal it really bothered me. How was I going to connect with someone whose true identity was kept a secret? About a quarter of the way through the book, I realized just how ingenious a move this was on Ms. Mead’s part. Adelaide throws herself whole-heartedly into her assumed identity, and I found myself thinking of her simply as strong-willed, impulsive Adelaide, and pretty much let the question of her real name slip from my mind.
Raised among the nobility, Adelaide has a lot to learn about life as a commoner, even if said commoner is attempting to make herself into something resembling nobility. A lady’s maid doesn’t know how to dance the latest and most fashionable dances, play musical instruments or eat with the proper utensils. A noblewoman, on the other hand, isn’t able to get dressed without assistance, do her own hair, cook a meal, or clean a house. Her attempts to excel make for some highly entertaining scenes, and had me glued to my iPad, wondering if the whole scheme would come crashing down around Adelaide’s ears.
Once safely ensconced as a member of the Glittering Court, an organization created to teach girls of common birth the ways of the nobility, Adelaide begins to make friends and to discover what she truly wants out of life. She soon discovers that she’s not the only one with secrets to keep. Tamsin, a former laundress, plans to take Adoria by storm by landing herself a husband who can give her the wealth and security she longs for. Mira is a mysterious refugee, leaving the stifling confines of Osfrid for reasons she is frightened to reveal to anyone, including Tamsin and Adelaide, who soon become her closest friends. Most surprising of all is Cedric’s secret, a dark truth that binds his future with Adelaide’s in ways neither can foresee.
Adelaide is an extremely likable heroine, and I admired her adaptable nature and her ability to grow, even in the face of what seems like insurmountable adversity. She doesn’t hide her face in her pillows and wail when things get tough. Instead, she looks deep within for strength and simply perseveres. I love the way she takes what she wanted without feeling ashamed of her own needs and desires.
The story spans just over a year in time, giving Adelaide and Cedric plenty of time to develop feelings for one another. Their budding attraction is obvious to the reader, but circumstances keep pushing them apart. Adelaide is supposed to marry a wealthy politician, ensuring Cedric a hefty commission, and she’s determined to uphold her part of the deal. For his part, Cedric knows he can’t offer Adelaide the kind of life she deserves, and the commission he will receive once she’s married will ensure his safety. Their journey toward a HEA is action-packed and riveting, making The Glittering Court one of my top reads of this year so far.
While Adelaide’s story is completely wrapped up at the end of the novel, Ms. Mead drops some enticing hints into the direction of the next two books. They seem to feature Tamsin and Mira, and promise to be just as engrossing as this first installment in the trilogy. I’m counting the days until the release of book two.