Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Other Countess & The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards

July 2010, Razorbill
352 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Young Adult, Historical

Elizabethan England, life at the royal court, politics and nobility, friendships, courtships of various kinds, intrigue, adventure, a few tissues needed, plenty edge of seat moments, gorgeous costumes, a few references of innuendo,

Summary from Penguin

England, 1582
ELLIE - Lady Eleanor Rodriguez of San Jaime - is in possession of a gold-seeking father, a worthless title and a feisty spirit that captivates the elite of the Queen's court, and none other than the handsome new Earl of Dorset . . .
WILLIAM LACEY has inherited his father's title and his financial ruin. Now the Earl must seek a wealthy heiress and restore his family's fortune.
But Will's head has been turned by the gorgeous Ellie, yet their union can never be. Will is destined to marry a worthy Lady so the only question is - which one . . . ?

Nayuleska's thoughts
I love historicals, and this cover lured me in. Now initially I was a little disappointed. I wasn't as gripped as I can be with historicals. I wasn't involve with the characters, they were okay but not exactly anyone I really liked. It was an enjoyable read so I read on past the first few chapters. Very quickly I reversed my opinion of the book.

Initially the characters make mistakes and act inappropriately, but under the surface they do have hearts, and I warmed to them. All of them go through so much - some of it their own fault, some of it not. Ellie was the first one I liked the most. She's full of enthusiasm. She clearly wishes her father was different, and is resigned to her fate. However, she isn't a doormat. She is highly intelligent, fends off those who have dishonourable intentions towards her. She likes to do the right thing, which actually lands her in deep trouble.

I didn't warm to Will much for quite a while, mostly because he wasn't serious about Ellie. But as time flew by, and I learned more of his character, I was cheering him on.. As for Jane...well...she's quite a madam and quite frankly I thought she deserved everything that happened to her in the beginning of the story.. But, as is often the way with books, by the end I was rooting for all of them. There were lots of tense moments which had me thinking 'will this end happily?'. The situations Ellie finds herself in seem irreversible, and the get out clauses in the plot are nice and twisty.

I adore the front cover - it clearly shows the type of costumes within the book. There are plenty of dress descriptions to keep me happy. It was interesting to learn more about Queen Elizabeth, it clearly shows the amount of research Eve did for this series.

As you may have noticed from the title of this post it is a review of two books.

3rd February, Razorbill
352 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Young Adult, Historical

Elizabethan England, life at the royal court, power and money hungry nobles, families who don't care for their children, forced marriages, blackmail, sea voyage, a small amount of racial prejudice, firm friendship,  courtships of various kinds, intrigue, adventure, a few tissues needed, plenty edge of seat moments, gorgeous costumes, a few references of innuendo,

Summary from Penguin

1584 - Surrey, England
When Lady Jane Rievaulx begins service to the Queen at Richmond Palace, she is thrilled at the court's newest arrival . . . Master James Lacey.
Despite her previous courtship with his older brother, James is the man she truly loves. And for his part, he cannot deny his fascination with her. However, James is setting sail on a treacherous journey to the Americas, seeking absolution for what he sees as past sins.
But when Lady Jane is forced into a terrible situation by her own family, there is only one man to save her. Will Master James return to his lady ­- before it's too late

Nayuleska's thoughts
I started this one the moment I finish The Other Countess. It is a sequel to the previous book, and a brilliant one. I'd never have thought I'd love Jane, who takes the spotlight here. In spite of all that she did in part of The Other Countess, I really felt for her here. Her stepsons are ruthless, and as for her family - well they don't care one iota about her happiness. They only care about their own station and how much money is in their wallets. They stop at nothing to get her married to someone who will better their status - it is almost as bad as those wish her great harm.

This was as fun as the first book, more so because I already know the characters. It's so interesting seeing all their views of events. James acted like quite a moron during the book, but then he was struggling to deal with terrible sights of death that he'd encountered while on a job. I was frustrated because it was so clear what he should have done, and how he failed. His melancholy was well betrayed, and very realistic in how he reacted to life and the dim view he took of himself. In contrast there was Jane. She's turned out to be a very nice person. She has so much to deal with from her family - even though technically she was free of their reign thanks to her marriage, they possess quite a hold over her. Unlike them, she doesn't always like to use her connections with Ellie or the Queen, but situations arise which force her to do so. It was nice to see where her previous maid ended up.

Milly was another favourite of mine, for many reasons. She's worked hard for her business as a seamstress. She's funny in her mannerisms, and takes great measures to try and aid her best friend Jane. Will and Ellie make several appearances too, and two new members of the Lacey family feature in it, one of whom is quite unexpected.

What I love best about these books is the forms of loyalty and friendship that are forged between the Lacey's and their friends. They aren't perfect, and their mistakes make them seem very easy to relate to. It's fun to watch some of the customs of the time, and how connections could be used to affect a person's future. It's true that I always thought nobles could do whatever they like, but as one character comments being rich can be quite troubling. Additionally I really like how well I get to know the Lacey family. They feel so familiar now, and I'm already excited about the third book, The Rogue's Princess. I'm not sure when it's out, but I hope to read it!

Final conclusion for both books
This is an awesome new historical series, one that I'll reread and treasure. I'll be keeping a close eye on Eve's future work. It's fun if you like period books with likeable heroines who aren't perfect, but become very charming by the end of the book.

Suggested read: if you would like something similar, try The Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin.

Another suggested read: Alyxandra Harvey's The Drake Chronicles which starts with My Love Lies Bleeding. This is a completely different genre - contemporary Young Adult (with vampires) but it's a series which focuses strongly on family connections, letting the reader get to know the family since each book focuses on a different family member (with encounters with the other characters)


Rebecca Herman said...

I loved The Other Countess and am reading The Queen's Lady right now. I think the 3rd book will be out in July. I'm sad the changed the covers though. I much preferred the old covers.

Nayuleska said...

Oddly I prefer the new covers :) First one was an old cover, but preferred the new one so used it!