The Lacey Chronicles, by Eve Edwards

As long-time readers of the site know, I tend to avoid romance novels set prior to the 19th century. I'm sure that means I'm missing out on a ton of excellent books, but Kate Beaton's 15th Century Peasant Romance Comics perfectly sum up my vision of the English-speaking world before, say, 1795: lots of early death; zero dental hygiene. However, readers blessed with stronger stomachs than mine should definitely check out Eve Edward's Lacey Chronicles, a series of well-written YA romances set in Tudor-era England.

Edwards has released three books in this series thus far. The Other Countess is the story of Lady Eleanor Rodriguez, an impoverished noblewoman living at the mercy of her borderline-insane father, and her love-hate relationship with the new Earl of Dorset, William Lacey, who needs to marry for money. The second book, The Queen's Lady, features Eleanor's friend, Lady Jane Rievaulx, and her star-crossed romance with William's troubled younger brother James. The third book in the series, The Rogue's Princess, broadens the series' scope beyond the nobility—it focuses on Mercy Hart, the daughter of a wealthy, conservative merchant, and Kit Turner, a flamboyant, well-known actor (who happens to be William and James's illegitimate half-brother).

While Edwards claims to have done considerable research in an attempt to capture the “sights, sounds and tastes” of Tudor-era England, her books aren't exactly paragons of historical accuracy. (The characters speak mostly in modern English, etc.) However, the author does an excellent job—particularly in her first two books—of capturing the vast unfairness of her heroines' lives, which are lived entirely at the mercy of men. Unfortunately, Eleanor and Jane are required to be so pragmatic and resourceful that Mercy, whose troubles are basically self-inflicted, suffers in comparison, coming off as something of a spoiled brat.

There's not much difference between Edwards's series and similar historical romances aimed at adults, although these books are free of explicit sex scenes. I suspect there will at least one more book in this series, but none of the books end on a cliffhanger, so fans of historical romance—even historical romances where tooth-brushing is chancy, indoor plumbing is nonexistent, and the fact that none of the main characters die in childbirth means the books should probably be filed under “Fantasy”—can feel free to start reading now.

Review based on publisher-provided copies.
Posted by: Julianka


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