"Infamous" is a romance set during the reign of Edward I of England (Edward Plantagenet) and it's a gallop through history as King Edward tries to hold on to lands in France, to conquer Wales and to try to subdue Scotland. There is a mixture of history and fiction - all the main characters are historical people although their stories and ages are somewhat altered to fit in with this book. We meet King Edward, various earls and nobles such as Warwick and Gloucester and even Robert de Bruce as our characters journey round the castles of England and the borders with Wales and Scotland.
The pacing of this story is very fast - people travel across large tracts of England very quickly, scenes are rarely more than a couple of pages long - and this has a consequent effect on characterisation. Jory has three men in her life, the Earl of Warwick, Humphrey de Bohun and Robert de Bruce, but we learn very little about Humphrey despite the fact Marjory spends a great deal of time in his company. In fact, all we really learn about him are his disappointments in bed and his fear and yet the impression given is of a very nice young man; I felt he'd had rather a tough position in this story and that Virginia Henley should have made more of Humphrey the Man, not just Humphrey the Disappointment. We learn more about Warwick, of course, as he is more central to the story, but I still didn't feel that I really understood him. And Robert de Bruce was mainly described by his lovemaking skills; in this book, skill in bed seemed to be the most important thing about the male characters.
Our heroine was a rather strange woman too. She was constantly referred to as 'wilful' and she seemed to do her own thing without much consideration of others. Marriages in the 13th century were contracted for dynastic reasons rather than love but she doesn't play her dutiful daughter part - this makes for a love story but makes her seem shallow and selfish to me. And I got very fed up with her hair being described as "silver-gilt" numerous times - the repetition became annoying.
The central love story of the plot relies, once again in a historical romance, on the "Big Misunderstanding". And it was an annoying misunderstanding as it was facilitated by a letter that Marjory writes to Warwick where she just writes one sentence which is open to misinterpretation. Of course, if the sentence hadn't been misinterpreted we wouldn't have the middle portion of the book but still it seemed rather unlikely and a slender thread upon which to hang the estrangement of hero and heroine for over half of the book. In some ways the love story took a back seat to the machinations and political manoeuvring of the characters which seem to make up the bulk of the book - historically a useful look at the events around the end of the reign of Edward I but not interesting enough to hold attention when the characterisation is so bare.
For those interested in this period in history and familiar with the castles and regions referred to this is an enjoyable and pacy read. For those hoping for more characterisation and likeable characters it might be better to look elsewhere.
Originally published for Curled Up With A Good Book, www.curledup.com . © Helen Hancox 2007