I've read several of Brenda Joyce's books, and all have been set in 19th-century America, so it was a surprise to pick up The Game and discover that it is set in England and Ireland during the time of Elizabeth I, around 1571.
It's a complex book in some ways with lots of plotting and machinations by various Irish nobles as well as the
queen and those around her. Most of the characters in The Game are actual historical people, and that adds a great deal of interest to the story.
However, I found myself rather ambivalent as I was reading it.
It isn't dull, and I was happy to keep reading, but I did found myself rather wearied by the heroine, Katherine FitzGerald. She spends the first half of the book fearing for her virtue, protecting it at all costs, and going on and on about being raped by the hero, Liam O'Neill. O'Neill is a pirate
who has captured Katherine and wants to make her his mistress. Katherine has a dream of family life with a husband and children and so
refuses to submit, especially as her father is a nobleman, albeit one stripped of his lands and title.
She feels she deserves more than the pirate son of a murderous rapist.
O'Neill seems very patient, even if he does have a one-track mind. He is also extremely forgiving, putting up with an amazing amount from Katherine and apparently still finding her fascinating. It's never clear when reading The Game what
is so great about Katherine apart from her beauty. She's not particularly loyal or trustworthy, breaking her word on
several occasions during the course of the book. She also seems rather self-centered, which seems odd for someone brought up in a nunnery.
Though she has a certain amount of spirit and fire, most of the time she seems like an annoyingly whiny woman; it's hard to understand why virtually every man she meet seems desperate to make her his mistress.
The strength of The Game is its historical setting, the machinations of the various Irish Catholic lords who
are trying to break away from England, and the doubts and difficulties of Queen Elizabeth as she tries to rule her nation but can't tell who to trust. The weaknesses
lie in the characters of Katherine and, to some extent, O'Neill, who never feels entirely convincing. It's an interesting read but not satisfying enough in some important areas.