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Rewind Reviews: The Three Graces Series by Jennifer Blake (read in 2011)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

One of the things I’m going to focus more on this year on this blog is reading and book reviews. I’m not currently writing, so it’s hard for me to get motivated or passionate for writing about writing. But I’ve challenged myself to read more books this year than I have in more than a decade. Since I’m not reading fast enough right now to be able to post a new book review every week, I thought I could spend some time going back and revisiting books I’ve read since I started tracking them back in 2011 (when I was barely writing a few sentences/blurb for most of them, not a full review). But what’s the point of tracking what we’ve read or writing reviews if we don’t go back and look at them again from time to time?

Before I get into the individual reviews for the books in this trilogy, I will say that one of the key factors that drew me to the first book in the series (aside from the blurb) is the fact that it’s set in a unique time period for general-market historical romance novels: in the court of the first Tudor king, Henry VII, a few years after the end of the War of the Roses. It was still a quite volatile time in England, yet not in the way it would be under the reign of this king’s son, the infamous Henry VIII. And now without further ado . . . The Three Graces.
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By His Majesty’s Grace (Read in November 2011)

By His Majesty's Grace
Back-Cover Blurb: Her hand may be bestowed by others, but her heart is hers alone to give.

Much to her chagrin, Lady Isabel Milton has been given to Earl Rand Braesford—a reward from the Tudor king for his loyalty to the throne. The lusty nobleman quickly claims his husbandly rights, an experience Isabel scarcely hoped to enjoy so much. But youth and strength may not save Braesford from his bride’s infamous curse…

Accused of a heinous crime with implications that reach all the way to King Henry himself, Braesford is imprisoned in the Tower, and Isabel is offered her salvation—but for a price. She has the power to seal his fate, have him sent to the executioner and be freed from her marriage bonds. Yet the more Isabel learns of Rand, the less convinced she is of his guilt, and she commits to discover the truth about the enigmatic husband she never expected to love.

My Review:
4 stars.

Loved this book, and especially the unique time setting, with it being in the court of Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch.

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Okay, so it’s not much of a review. I do recall that I did enjoy Blake’s writing and storytelling style. I also enjoyed the characterization and relationship-building with Isabel and Braesford. I do recall that there were some passages of backstory—but of the history of the era (the end of the War of the Roses) which I skimmed/skipped. I think, though, this one may require a re-read in order for me to write a more worthy review of a book to which I gave four stars.

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By Grace Possessed (Read in December 2011)

By Grace PossessedBack-Cover Blurb: She is one of the accursed Three Graces of Graydon—if she marries not for love, her betrothed will soon meet his end.

…The Tudor king issues Lady Catherine Milton a most unusual command: seduce Scottish loyalist Ross Dunbar. The son of an ornery borderland laird, Dunbar would make an advantageous match, but King Henry cannot force him to wed. So Cate must ensnare him…

A rush of courtly parties and passionate nights in Dunbar’s embrace leaves Cate breathless…and confused. She desires a proposal for the sake of propriety and politics, but she longs to be truly loved. Tortured loyalties are not hers alone—though Dunbar is enchanted by Cate, he cannot bind himself to England and abandon his people.

But when a pretender to the throne ignites a rebellion, the choice is made for them: to solidify northern alliances, Dunbar and Cate must wed. Suddenly Dunbar’s death appears certain—either by his bride’s curse or by a war he did not choose.

My Review:
4.5 Stars

While I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, By His Majesty’s Grace, I enjoyed this book much better—and it’s because rather than giving a dry recounting of the history that happened before the story started (the end of the War of the Roses that led to Henry VII’s taking the throne of England), in this book, the history happens ON PAGE in the form of action and interaction and conflict for the characters, rather than just long paragraphs of dry history.

But I couldn’t quite give it five stars—because I wish there had been more of Ross’s viewpoint scenes, especially during the time he and Cate are apart when he’s at Grimes. The story glosses over several months, but only from Cate’s viewpoint. I’d really liked to have seen the development of his character, the development of his feelings for Cate, during that time rather than just have it assumed that he came to some of the same conclusions about her that she did about him during that separation.

I appreciated the fact that while there were misunderstandings between Cate and Ross, Blake never “went there”—never had the relationship break down because of their assumptions or misgivings about each other. While they didn’t just talk it out, either, at least the author didn’t rely solely on conflict that could have been easily solved by a conversation. I thought the relationship developed at just the right pace to match the action of the story (with the exception mentioned in the previous paragraph).

And, of course, I’ve always been a sucker for a man in a kilt! 😉

Now I’m really looking forward to starting the third book in the series, Seduced by Grace, since there was just the slightest hint at Marguerite and David’s relationship in this book that whetted my appetite for their story.

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Seduced by Grace (Read in December 2011)

Seduced by GraceBack-Cover Blurb: The youngest of the fabled Three Graces of Graydon is waylaid from her bridal cortege, preserving one man from the notorious curse. But another may yet fall.…

When Lady Marguerite Milton is abducted by the enigmatic—and famously insatiable—Golden Knight, it is the stuff of fantasy. Or would be, if Marguerite weren’t pining for her David, who pledged his devotion ten years before …and disappeared. But the only thing more heartbreaking than a man who does not keep his word is one bound by it.…

David is the Golden Knight, reaffirming his oath to protect Marguerite and, maddeningly, to love her, but chastely. More infuriatingly, Marguerite has been a pawn—bait to lure David into King Henry VII’s latest intrigue. To divide Yorkist insurrectionists, David is groomed as a rival to their latest pretender to the throne.

Marguerite is desperate. If David fails, the rebels will destroy him; if he succeeds, Henry will not scruple to execute the would-be king he himself created. Suddenly, love and life seem far beyond the reach of any mere curse.…

My Review:
3.75 stars

Nowhere near as good as the first two books in the series, but that could be because I didn’t connect with either of the characters all that much, mainly due to the fact that the conflict between them felt contrived to my 21st Century mind. David’s insistence that he can’t marry Marguerite because of a “chivalrous vow” he made to her as a young man—before he was knighted—felt silly. Sure, it’s great to see a hero who’s a man of his word; however, it seems rather stupid when that word is all that’s keeping the hero and heroine apart, especially when it was a vow he made before he was in the position (knighthood) for it to mean anything.

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And, really, couldn’t the cover designer have photoshopped out the back-pocket button on David’s trousers on the cover of Seduced by Grace? Talk about anachronistic! 😉

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