In 16th century England, Damask Farland falls in love with the orphan Bruno who was raised by monks and hailed as a miracle child. The historical background is mostly formed by the tumultuous reign of Henry VIII, but continues on until the coronation of Elizabeth I.
The history of the time is explained in great detail, the intrigues at court, Henry’s many wives, religious conflict, etc., but while some events affect the characters, others don’t. Damask’s father, for instance, is denounced as a traitor and executed, or the abbey in which Bruno grew up is raided by Cromwell’s men and destroyed. In these parts, where the political developments have a direct impact on the character’s lives, the heavy historical approach works really well, but in some other parts, it becomes a tedious history lesson. Religion plays a huge part, in that it is important for everyone to adhere to the right one at any given moment in order to not end up without a head or on the stake, but the protagonist is strangely uncaring about it. There is an old witch who threatens to curse or bless her several times, and she seems to put much more stock in that than in any religion.
The characters are a huge problem, anyway. First of all, I have an irrational hatred for giving the heroine an unusual name in order to reinforce her ‘specialness’. This one is called Damask for the rose, which is just terrible. I mean, just call her Rose, then. What’s even more terrible, however, is that she is unbelievably boring. Her father can do no wrong in her eyes, she is sensible and demure to a fault, and her greatest joy are her children. That’s basically her character. In all this, she is in stark contrast to her fun-loving cousin Kate (normal name, of course!) who marries a much older man for status and wealth, has affairs with other men, and doesn’t care as much for her children. Overall, the women seem to be either on one or the other end of the spectrum, without much space for nuance.
And then, there is Bruno. He is already a jerk as a child, and it only gets worse as he gets older, but of course young Kate and Damask both fall for him. His delusions of grandeur and need for unquestioning adoration stem from his belief that he is a miracle child and was sent to Earth by God himself. He is the worst kind of love interest because he does not hide his terribleness even for a moment. It takes forever for Damask to cotton on to his true character, and it’s unbelievably grating. As for the plot, I thought it was basically fine, until I noticed that the foreshadowing is so heavy-handed that I could see the outcome of every twist and turn (and there are quite a few of them) from a mile away. It is almost uncanny how Carr can make a story so incredibly predictable and cliché-riddled. It just got more and more annoying the further I read.
Overall, I just didn’t like it. It is obviously a historical romance novel which I never read, and so I question myself a bit more in writing a bad review, but the criticism is valid. It’s just a bad book.
CBR11 Bingo: Not My Wheelhouse