Friday, January 8, 2016

Love's Intrigue by June Francis

Rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: December 15, 2015

1419, the coast of France. In the troubled times of Henry V’s attempts to take the throne of France, Louise Saulnier and her fellow Frenchmen are forced into wild living by the English. Stripped of the protection of her family’s wealth, Louise survives under the guise of a young boy, Louis, to escape the atrocities towards women that she has witnessed. But danger never wanders far and soon it is her own sister Marguerite who is taken by the foreign men. With only the face of the abductor etched into her memory, Louise risks everything to rescue her sister. When it appears that this very man and his brother is the only key to her success, Louise faces a terrible choice: give in to the Englishmen and betray her beloved Northern France, or lose Marguerite. Flitting between her two identities, Louise crosses boundaries both of land and sea and of the heart. She ventures into new territories and is not only swept up into the clash of the two countries, but also of the two brothers… 

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I requested June Francis' Love's Intrigue on a whim. The cover caught my eye and the plot looked vaguely interesting. I'd no experience with the author, but I liked the period and was generally optimistic when I began reading the narrative. Unfortunately the reality of the novel's execution left me regretting my spur of the moment impulse and I ultimately feel the time I spent with this piece well and truly wasted. 

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I would like to note to that Endeavour Press billed Love's Intrigue as Women's Fiction when calling for reviews on Netgalley. I've no idea how the publishing house defines the term, but I can say their definition differs dramatically from my own. I expected a novel that explored the feminine psyche and perspective, but found instead swollen breasts, hardened nipples, and fevered fondling. Needless to say, I wasn't amused. 

I was also frustrated that the situational drama of the book just didn't make sense. Take the scene in the woods when Louise finds John laying wounded, naked and alone. She helps him up, but it is late and cold. Wolves are about and the two are forced to seek shelter and safety on the branch of a tree. It's a tad dramatic and somewhat clichéd, but what happened pushed me over the edge. I didn't need to be treated a gag inducing description of wandering fingers that brought warmth to chilled loins, but more importantly it made not sense in the context of the scene! 

Structurally I was disappointed that so much of Louise’s journey takes place before the story begins. The reader understands she witnessed the horror of her home being sacked by invaders, but the audience doesn’t experience it alongside her. The circumstances that force her to live as a boy are described, but the discovery of her gender takes place in chapter one and the angle has little import thereafter.  

Historically speaking, Love's Intrigue has little to offer. It's a trade piece with shallow references and no depth. I found Francis' plot both fluffy and predictable, her characters canned, and the drama inconsistent with the ideas she attempted to illustrate. Bottom line is that nothing about this book worked for me and I’m quite happy to be done with it.  

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"It is of no consequence to me who rules France. All I care about is that Henry’s conquests have made the seas safer for English ships — which is better for trade. I have no stomach for the crazy dreams of the Plantagenets. For years they have wasted good money pursuing a war that in the end they must lose if both countries are to survive."
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