The Queen’s Bastard is set in an extremely thinly veiled alternate Elizabethan era Europe, where Queen Lorraine has sat on the throne of Aulun for years, keeping a firm grip throughout the machinations of her rivals, Sandalia and Irina (Lorraine’s name kept making me snigger, sounding as it does far more like the name of your nan’s bingo friend than a queen) Lorraine has never married, instead dangling her virginity and hand in marriage as prospective cards for an alliance. She has, however, had a secret child with her closest advisor, who has been raised with one clear use in mind – as a spy and assassin for her mother.
Belinda (yes, another name that made me snigger for some reason) has grown up to be rather excellent at her job, using her sexuality as well as her readiness to kill to further her mother’s goals, as well as being rather magically adept at using the shadows for her own ends. But when she’s sent to insinuate herself amongst Sandalia’s court with a view to uncovering evidence of a plot, she instead finds herself involved with Sandalia’s heir, Javier, who is not only as insanely attracted to Belinda as she is to him, but also has powers of his own, awakening Belinda’s magic in new and interesting ways.
Having had this sat on my Kindle for the longest time, with no real memory of what prompted me to buy it in the first place, I didn’t have very high expectations for this. But even after I started reading and rolling my eyes at non-royal sounding names, I found myself enjoying it. Belinda is no stranger to her own sexuality but even so is surprised at the turns it takes once her power awakens, mingling her desire with a growing need for sexual dominion, and her constant manipulation of others doesn’t exactly make her a sympathetic character to read about (in fact, everyone inside is an arsehole). It does make her a very fun one though, especially on a day when you’ve nothing more to do than sit in the garden with a cool rum drink, occasionally fanning yourself when the sun (and the action within the pages) gets a little hot.
The Queen’s Bastard is apparently the first in a trilogy, and I can’t say I’d be averse to reading more.