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Monday, August 22, 2011

The King’s Mistress by Sandy Blair

The King’s Mistress by Sandy Blair
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (198 pgs)
Heat Level: sensual
Rating: 3 books
Reviewed by Water Lily

The long way home could be the shortest road to ruin.

The king of Scotland is in a snit. Which means Britt MacKinnon, proud captain of the king’s guard, has an onerous task: fetch Alexander’s favorite paramour back to the royal bed—now. Never mind that the crown should be about the business of getting a legitimate heir. Especially since England’s Edward I would love nothing more than to seize an empty Scottish throne.

When the handsome soldier appears on her doorstep, Geneen Armstrong has to think quickly. Her twin lies abed in her cottage, pregnant with the king’s bastard. If the barren queen learns the truth, the foolish girl’s life won’t be worth a farthing.

She must somehow transform her graceless, plain-spoken self into her vivacious, talented sister. Then, after the court is convinced she carries no child, use her herbal knowledge to sour the king’s taste for her sister’s company—for good.

By the time Britt realizes this unusually articulate, ungodly stubborn woman is the wrong woman, tendrils of attraction have already tightened into a bond. A bond that will be tested when the king’s unexpected death puts Scotland’s very destiny at stake—and unleashes an ever-tangling web of court intrigues, secrets…and lies.

This story is an interesting mix of honor and lust. Britt MacKinnon starts by trying to make the king honor his marriage vows (at least until there’s an heir) when the king prefers to give into lust. Britt is sent to fetch the king’s favorite mistress, Lady Greer Armstrong.

Greer has already giving into lust. Now she and sister Genny are trying to do the safe, yet dishonorable (or is it honorable?) thing of keeping the king from finding out about the resultant pregnancy. To save Greer and the child, Genny believes she is doing the honorable thing in pretending to be Greer. Honor vs dishonor. Lust vs fidelity. Britt striving to force honor and fidelity on his king by leading the king’s mistress astray. It’s a very interesting premise, further complicated by the king’s actions and the queen’s plans.

Britt and Genny’s relationship was initially a nice juxtaposition of a moral couple and a bunch of immoral couples in an immoral society. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out. I became frustrated when Genny and Britt make the same mistakes as Greer and the king, proving that, despite being supposedly more honorable, they were no better than those they criticized.

There were some interesting plot twists that could have yielded a very intriguing story, but just when things should have heated up and become interesting, the complications resolved themselves. Any one of the dilemmas, if fully developed, could have resulted in a wonderful tension-rich book. All of them in a row, combined with the too easy, unrealistic resolutions, yielded something that was merely good.

Ms. Blair has the talent to paint wonderful scenes, set up interesting dilemmas, and create (at least initially) strong characters. The historical aspects of this book were wonderful, giving the reader a definite feel of time and place. I loved how Ms. Blair started each chapter with an old Scottish proverb.

Ms. Blair has wonderful writing skill, and I'll be on the lookout for more of her works. The King's Mistress was a good read that I largely enjoyed and if you're a fan of historical romance, you might, too.