I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Thornleigh #6
Published by Kensington on May 27th, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
1572. Europe is in turmoil. In the Netherlands the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise ...
Scottish-born Fenella Doorn rules like a queen over a privateer's haven on the Isle of Sark. Her success at salvaging crippled vessels affords her gold and security, and it is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron—and privateer—Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can’t refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances—and the children she’s taken from him.
But Fenella’s own bold actions have put a price on her head. Now Adam and Fenella’s lives are in peril as they race across Europe in an attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the crown, and restore the peace that few can remember
So, apparently this book is part of a series. I wasn’t aware of this until after, and though the book mostly worked as a stand-alone, that knowledge probably would have helped.
This is probably also the reason that this book got off to such a slow start, so slow I ended up setting this book aside to read something else and only begrudgingly returned to it later. It did eventually pick up, and as we learn about the main characters, it is evident they have some history with one another – previous daring rescues, blood and family ties, and a couple ‘long lost’ type reunions that pepper this book with flavor. Unfortunately, it was not quite enough to allow for an emotional investment in any of these characters.
Most significantly, I wasn’t compelled by Fenella, the protagonist. She was so incredibly contrary – lusting after one man she desires to run away with but bound to her marriage vows, known to have been a prostitute but when masquerading in a brothel is deliberately prudish, and so much more. Sure, she was loyal enough, and fought to do what was right, she just didnt work for me. I understand the author hails this character as her triumphant heroine who she’s very proud of, but she missed the mark for me.
It is difficult to discuss the plot much without being too spoilertastic, so I am going to focus on approach.
Though the book is not directly about Elizabeth I, It is very interesting to read about the ‘world of Elizabeth’, from the outsiders perspective. This book takes place in Belgium and the Netherlands, under Spanish occupation, so there is great insight to the international reaction to her rule, and the internal dissent that made England’s situation so precarious. Whats more, this book spends a great deal of time outside of England, focusing on the religious struggle of the Hugenots, and the people of Belgium and the Netherlands under harsh Spanish rule. As the Spanish were England’s mortal enemies of the time, the contrast is notably interesting.
Overall, my biggest problem of this book was with the ending, which melted away what little emotional investment I’d given to the characters and their plight. It is so frustrating to witness a deus ex machina in the guise of Elizabeth I that swooped in and sought to solve all the problems, rather than forcing these industrious characters to figure it all out themselves. Have they not been through bigger problems that forced them to be creative? It felt like a copout.
This book wasn’t terrible, and once it got past its slow start it was pleasant enough to get through, but overall I just don’t feel strongly enough about it one way or the other. I doubt I’ll be seeking out the rest of the series.