Judith, niece of Lord Somerset, is responsible, dutiful, and obedient. While on a ride to Monmouth to hand deliver a wedding invitation Judith is abducted in a case of mistaken identity. This adventure sets Judith on a path rife with peril, pleasure, and intrigue. Is she up to the challenges before her?
Charles Lambert was exiled from England fifteen years ago. He's led an adventurous life and only returned to his homeland to retrieve a painting, Judith by Artemisia Gentileschi. Lambert was entranced and has chased Rosamunda, the thief across the continent. Do his men bring him Rosamunda? No, his men bring him Judith, niece of the man responsible for his exile.
AND HEAVEN TOO scored for me on every point. I was ignorant of the painting Charles wanted so badly so I googled it. What a fascinating back story. There were many others of the subject done by various artists but I'm in total agreement with Charles, Artemisia Gentileschi's is compelling. The reign of Charles I isn't one I'm overly familiar with usually reading about earlier of later periods. Very perilous times indeed, feuding religious factions, civil strife, and a king who refuses to face reality or listen to reason. Charles and Judith's adventure is near the end of what would, in hindsight, be remembered as "a golden age" compared to the civil wars that followed it. Always happy to learn something I didn't know. Score.
The theatrical troupe Charles enlists to assist in his capture of Rosamunda consists of some wonderfully drawn characters. The playwright, Harry Webster, is a hoot. I laughed practically every time he appeared. All the characters are beautifully conceived and portrayed. Score for excellent characterization.
Mystery and political intrigue surround the Judith painting. The quest for the painting and what it means to different parties is our window to the politics of the time. The danger to Charles and Judith is very real and adds a nice edge and urgency. Score.
Charles has a rival in George Beecham, Judith's betrothed. George is fair to Charles' dark, dandy to manly, bland to witty, and boy to man. Charles' past interactions with Judith's family also play a hand in events. So there isn't a clear path to Judith. Score.
Levity. I enjoy dark reads, always have and while I adore my tortured, scarred, and flawed heroes and heroines with all their angst and moodiness frequent breaks are a necessity so it doesn't rub off. There were times AND HEAVEN TOO was borderline farcical. There's a chase scene involving Charles, Judith, the thespians, an Italian, and his henchmen that, despite the very real menace to which Charles can attest, reminded me of Peter Sellers' Pink Panther. Hilarious and score.
A hero and heroine who sparkle, lighting up every page they're on. Charles and Judith are attracted to each others mental acuity rather than physical appearance. On first sight she thinks he looks unkempt and rough while his first impression of her is a drowned rat. They both clean up nice but by that time they've clicked mentally. Their verbal foreplay crackles and their mental sparring is delightful. Charles is well aware that real seduction begins with the mind. His reference to "mental virginity" is apropos and brilliant. Big time score.
I had such a large time reading AND HEAVEN TOO. Just the palate cleanser I needed after all the heavier much darker reading I've done lately.
Reviewed by IvyD for Manic Readers & Miss Ivy's Book Nook