It's delightful to finally have another Anne Stuart Historical. Few writers are at home in both medieval sagas or dark, deadly erotic suspense as this writer is. But it has been a few years since we were treated to a Historical Romance from Stuart. Hope it won't be so long until another one comes along! Hidden Honor is simply wonderful.
Elizabeth of Bredon has grown up in a house full of men. Her father is an arrogant lout, given to using his ham size fists. Her mother died in childbirth, and since Elizabeth has been little more than a glorified servant to the fifty or so males in
her fathers castle. Never time for the things she wishes to learn, she spends her time hiding her intelligence from her less than fatherly father. So she views entering the convent of St. Anne as a suitable choice for her life. No more violent, brutish men, no more endless work for little appreciation. She tells herself she is blest being overly tall and with bright red hair, for no man has ever offered for her. Thus, she will not die in birthing endless children as her mother did.
However, her peaceful future is suddenly thrown in turmoil. She is to travel to St. Anne's in the company of knights escorting Prince William to do penance. The illegitimate son of King John, the Princeling is a worthless debauched excuse of
a man - inheriting all the King's bad traits. He killed a daughter of a Baron, and has been forced to do penance to atone.
Only, when Elizabeth meets Prince William, she's totally puzzled. He is nothing like she expected. For one, he is tall, but not as tall as most of the Plantagenets. He is dark, where they are known for their golden beauty. William is a strong man, a lean, calloused-hands warrior, yet there is a gentleness in him that disarms her. All rather at odds with the soft man who spends his time in drink and debauching maidens. She also notices the Prince is going prematurely bald. Or is he? Elizabeth knows she should hate the Prince, but finds she cannot resist his seriousness, the troubled look in the dark eyes, eyes that seem to look into her soul. He is so kind to her, on their journey, again, contrary to the tales of William being utterly cruel. Very sharp, Elizabeth becomes convinced this man may not be all he says he is.
Elizabeth discovers there is more than one man in the party wearing masks as their two-day journey takes a treacherous turn. Their group is attacked by men wearing Prince William's colors! Many of the monks traveling with Elizabeth and "William" are slaughtered. "William" and Elizabeth escape, but they must race against time to foil a murderous plot of revenge. Toss in a vow that keeps "William" and Elizabeth apart, one really wicked super-mean villain, you have Stuart at her best. With vivid, heart stealing characters, this is another keeper on your Stuart shelf! It's a richly textured medieval romance, with Stuart realistically portraying the realities of women's treatment in this period.
Stuart once again amazes me with her genius, her insight, her imagination. Don't ever stop, lass!