Today I’m sharing a review by the queen of 18th century stores — Laura Frantz, that is. Her latest is an escape from the England to the Scottish Lowlands with a heart-stirring romance: The Rose and the Thistle.
In 1715, Lady Blythe Hedley’s father is declared an enemy of the British crown because of his Jacobite sympathies, forcing her to flee her home in northern England. Secreted to the tower of Wedderburn Castle in Scotland, Lady Blythe awaits who will ultimately be crowned king. But in a house with seven sons and numerous servants, her presence soon becomes known.
No sooner has Everard Hume lost his father, Lord Wedderburn, than Lady Hedley arrives with the clothes on her back and her mistress in tow. He has his own problems–a volatile brother with dangerous political leanings, an estate to manage, and a very young brother in need of comfort and direction in the wake of losing his father. It would be best for everyone if he could send this misfit heiress on her way as soon as possible.
Drawn into a whirlwind of intrigue, shifting alliances, and ambitions, Lady Blythe must be careful whom she trusts. Her fortune, her future, and her very life are at stake. Those who appear to be adversaries may turn out to be allies–and those who pretend friendship may be enemies.
Laura Frantz is adept at her 18th century epics, and The Rose and the Thistle features a change of setting as all of it is abroad (no American colony or frontier). Her immersive style paints a fresh view of the moors and medieval castles, lending the 1700s story an older air as the antiquity of the setting mirrors the noble and honorable hero and heroine. Intrigue and duty are interwoven in this lush historical tale with a romance at its center.
And what a remarkable romance it is! It’s enough of a slow burn that the reader has a sense of Everard and Blythe, and the ways they will suit, even before they meet on page. This makes it a bit of an adventure to see them verbally spar at first because of their opposites (faith traditions and cultural upbringings), even as the reader knows their sameness of spirit in loyalty and intelligence. From an initial prickliness to a shared devotion to Everard’s littlest brother, Orin, they find common ground in friendship and elements of faith even as they cautiously venture toward a romantic possibility despite political dangers and opposition. When the romance does progress, wow, is it breathtaking in its telling. Everard is the best combination of fierce protector with a tender heart, while Blythe exhibits compassionate strength and humility.
The often-surprising plot, vibrant secondary characters (the Hume brothers!), and formidable Scottish Lowlands settings (Wedderburn Castle! Edinburgh!) all combine to heighten the stakes and add immeasurable depth to the tale. Orin, in particular, is a favorite, with a precocious and candid nature. Another small element of the story I love is the ongoing presence of birds — Blythe has a pet sparrow and Everard engages in falconry.
Through the ups and downs Everard and Blythe face, their story unfolds as more than just a romance, but as a story of honor and mutual respect. Both admirably cling to their faith in different ways. The Rose and the Thistle is the kind of story I wish I could read again for the first time — and I believe I will find new depths and facets upon each reread.
Thank you to the publisher for my review copy. I voluntarily purchased an ebook copy. This is my honest review.