Virginia Henley
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Buy *Infamous* by Virginia Henley online

Virginia Henley
416 pages
July 2006
rated 3 of 5 possible stars
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Set during the reign of Edward I of England (Edward Plantagenet), Infamous is a gallop through history as King Edward tries to hold on to lands in France, conquer Wales and subdue Scotland. There is a mixture of history and fiction; all the main characters are historical people, although their stories and ages are somewhat altered to fit within this book. We meet King Edward, various earls and nobles such as Warwick and Gloucester, even Robert de Bruce as our characters journey 'round the castles of England and the borders with Wales and Scotland.

The pacing of this story is fast - people travel across large tracts of England quickly, scenes are rarely more than a couple of pages long - and this has a consequent effect on characterization. Jory has three men in her life - the Earl of Warwick, Humphrey de Bohun and Robert de Bruce - but we learn little about Humphrey despite the fact that Marjory spends a great deal of time in his company. In fact, all we really learn about him are his disappointments in bed and his fear, yet the impression given is of a nice young man. He has rather a tough position in this story, and Virginia Henley should have made more of Humphrey the Man, not just Humphrey the Disappointment. We learn more about Warwick, of course, as he is more central to the story, but don't really understand him. Robert de Bruce is mainly described by his lovemaking skills; in this book, skill in bed seems to be the most important thing about the male characters.

Our heroine is a rather strange woman, too. She is constantly referred to as "willful" and seems to do her own thing without much consideration of others. Marriages in the 13th century were contracted for dynastic reasons rather than love but she doesn't play her dutiful daughter part. This makes for a love story but also makes her seem shallow and selfish. I got very fed up with her hair being described as "silver-gilt" numerous times; the repetition becomes annoying.

The central love story of the plot relies, once again in a historical romance, on the "Big Misunderstanding." And it is an annoying misunderstanding, facilitated by a letter that Marjory writes to Warwick where she writes just one sentence that is open to misinterpretation. Of course, if the sentence weren't misinterpreted, we wouldn't have the middle portion of the book. It still seems rather unlikely and a slender thread upon which to hang the estrangement of hero and heroine for over half of the book. In some ways, the love story takes a backseat to the machinations and political maneuvering of the characters that make up the bulk of the book - historically a useful look at the events around the end of the reign of Edward I, but not interesting enough to hold attention when the characterization is so bare.

For those interested in this period in history and familiar with the castles and regions referred to, this is an enjoyable and racy read. For those hoping for more characterization and likeable characters, it might be better to look elsewhere.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Helen Hancox, 2007

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