For Michael Devereaux, winning honor and prestige at the court of King Henry VIII for his lord and protector, Lord Tyrone of Ireland, and making a name for himself is all that matters. Just before he is to leave for England and a tournament, he contracts a strange affliction which makes him dependent on a mysterious medicine that he’s told to keep secret.
He’s been warned to be loved but to not fall in love, a task that proves easier said than done when he sees the beautiful French princess, Renee de Valois. Renee is a woman with a scarred reputation who has been forced by the King of France and the Church’s Cardinal Medici on a covert mission of great danger, where her success means the life of her lover and her own freedom.
Michael complicates her plans, both in becoming an unwanted accomplice and in making her question where her heart lies. When one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting is brutally murdered, both Michael and Renee know time is running out, but neither realize just how key their roles are to guarding one of the greatest secrets man has ever known.
Intrigue, romance, murder, and a paranormal twist - Royal Blood has a dash of just about everything to please a wide array of readers. The paranormal aspect of the story was a surprise, as the book’s summary makes it sound as though the novel is pretty standard historical fare. Some readers who are looking for a more accurate representation of the times and court of Henry VIII may find the paranormal aspect disappointing, but really, it’s that bit which makes Royal Blood unique and very entertaining.
Clues are dropped along the way regarding Michael’s odd affliction that makes the reader wonder, “Could he be a…”, and these hints grow stronger until the secret behind his “ailment” is fully revealed at slightly more than midway through the story. When this happens, Michael, already an extremely likeable and strong figure, transforms into an even deeper character.
Just because the story goes beyond reality is not a reason to withhold merit for it as a sound historical fiction. Clothing, food, customs, speech, social interactions - the Tudor court is brought to life with painstaking detail by author Rona Sharon. The pacing of the story is a bit slow for the first half of the novel, and the sexual tension between Michael and Renee plays out overly long, but once the story hits the turning point of revealing Michael’s condition, it’s a challenge trying to put the book down. All the mysteries pick up at this point: Michael’s past, what exactly Renee is seeking in her mission, the killer roaming Tudor London. The story becomes a whirlwind of intrigue and excitement.
Renee is a wonderfully strong heroine. She’s not the type of princess to wait around for Prince Charming; if she wants something done, she does it herself. Courageous and witty, her femininity is one of her greatest weapons, and her moments of vulnerability make her feel true to life. When she and Michael acknowledge their feelings for each other, it leads to a passionate relationship. Many of the secondary characters were actual personages, and there are so many that it can be tricky initially keeping straight who’s who and which lord or duke is friend or foe.
Tudor England and King Henry’s court has long been a popular theme in books and movies, as the success of Showtime’s recent miniseries The Tudors demonstrates. Now its grandeur is revisited in Rona Sharon’s Royal Blood in a wholly unique way. With its intelligent storytelling and great characters, Royal Blood is an enjoyable and satisfying read. Historical fiction, historical romance, or historical paranormal, if you’re a fan of any of these, then this book is a must-read.