The second in Jennifer Blake‘s new trilogy about the Three Graces of Graydon, By Grace Possessed is the sequel to By His Majesty’s Grace, which I reviewed earlier this month. The third book, youngest sister Marguerite’s tale, is due to be published some time this month.
Lady Catherine Milton is the second of the Three Graces of Graydon, a trio of beautiful sisters believed to be plagued by a curse that kills any man who tries to marry them without love. Between them, the sisters have lost fifteen suitors to death’s cold embrace, and felt quite secure that few men at court desired them enough to risk his life before the wedding night. That was, rather, until King Henry VII gave oldest sister Isabel’s hand in marriage to one of his knights; Rand Braesford survived the curse, though whether it was because the marriage was arranged by the King, and not by Rand himself, that is the cause, or whether there are tender feeling involved, is best left to Baron Braesford and his blissfully happy bride.
Now that one Graydon husband has survived the curse, Cate and her younger sister Marguerite are back on the marriage market, whether they will it or not. Henry is certainly planning to use this to his advantage, as he proves when a hunting accident strands Cate in the forest overnight with Ross Dunbar, the son of a Scottish laird held as a political hostage in London by the king. With Cate’s reputation in ruins, a temporary betrothal to soothe the court’s gossip and please Henry seems the best solution… until a Yorkist uprising heralds the threat of invasion, and the king decides that Cate’s marriage to Ross will help secure England’s northern border…
Like the previous book, this story takes place in the early Tudor years, shortly after the end of the Wars of the Roses, and the political aftermath of that turmoil definitely lingers. Once again Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York feature in the tale, and poor Prince Arthur finally makes his appearance. The addition of Dunbar’s Scottish roots and the politics surrounding Scotland’s James IV and the Yorkist pretender to the throne add to the detailed setting and the intrigue factor.
Most of the drive in this story came from the characters, their reluctance to wed and eventual arranged marriage, rather than external forces. Neither Ross nor Cate desires to be wed, and certainly not to each other – but the attraction is definitely there, even if neither will admit to anything beyond it. But that’s not to say the romance was completely free from influence outside of the couple themselves; Henry and the power he wields over them is very present through the story, as is the influence of Cate’s unwanted suitor and the attempts on Ross’ life.
It did seem to me that Ross’ belief that Cate was behind the attacks on his life – or possibly conspiring with the aforementioned unwanted suitor, who Ross knew very well had already attempted to assault Cate – was stretched past the point of credulity. While there weren’t any over-the-top ridiculous misunderstandings, they definitely suffered from a lack of communication; both of them refused to discuss or explain things that they probably should have, which would have saved them a lot of grief in the long run. The ‘mystery’ of the attacks on Ross was not so much a mystery as it was his lengthy failure to realise and acknowledge the obvious. The whole thing got rather tiresome after a while.
I did love the tie-in with the Battle of Stoke, and all of the excellent historical flavour, including the political power that Lady Margaret Beaufort, King Henry’s mother, wielded over her son and his court. It was nice to see how Isabel and Rand were settling into married life after the events of By His Majesty’s Grace, though it did feel like they were present a little too much. Cate and Marguerite featured very little in Isabel’s story, so it seemed unfair that Isabel (and Marguerite) got so much screen-time in Cate’s story.
Overall, delightful. And no talk of murdered babies. Definitely recommended.