Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Barefoot Princess by Christina Dodd

The Barefoot Princess is second in a series called the Lost Princesses. I was not aware of this because I do try and read from the beginning. Nevermind.

This is a historical romance, set in 1810 in Devon, England (thank you, first page of Chapter 1. You can be surprised how often it's uncertain where and when a book is set).

Our heroine, Amy, is an exiled secret princess of an obscure kingdom that turned (mostly) hardened criminal by the age of nineteen. She has two sisters: the other aforementioned lost princesses. Jermyn who is twenty-nine if I recall correctly is the injured marquess of Northcliff.

Amy has been taken in by an elderly spinster called Miss Victorine. The village and Miss Victorine are very poor and neglected by their lords, on the verge of starvation. They don't quite understand it, he was such a sweet boy. Guess whom the "official" guy in charge of the place? It's Jermyn, although his shady uncle runs the estate. Amy comes up with a plan: kidnap Jermyn, get the money and run for it pulling in Miss Victorine and the whole village into her plans. Of course the best laid plans of mice and (wo)men...

I quite liked Dodd's writing style and the twists & turns of her novel. I didn't, however, particularly like the characters' ways; they both resort to dodgy methods to secure what they want although often their hearts do seem to be in the right place. They're constantly fighting for dominance and I think the author felt that Jermyn had to display a lot of it to compensate for his previous weak will. This led to some situations which definitely had an element of 'forced' which disturbed me.

Historical novels always run into the danger of cliché and one annoying one Jermyn had was having a hang-up over his mother, thinking she's a whore. There was a danger of it blending in with a lot of other historicals but quirks of wit and beauty with the writing distinguished it. I think she did a good job with exploring her characters -- which included not forcing me to like them. Amy's double background felt real with her flashbacks and the person she has become is implicit in all her actions.

I do want to read the next book, there was a thrilling taster of our next hero; who sounds like he has a bit more genuine darkness and balls in him than this one.

This book gets 3 out of 5 manacles from me.

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