Friday, February 24, 2012

Penelope Williamson -- Beloved Rogue

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ .   {3.85}
Action: ♠♠♠♠ / Emotion: ♣♣♣♣. / Romance: ♥♥♥♥. / Sensuous: ♦ / Suspense: ♠♠♠♠
Action: 4 / Emotion: 4.5 / Romance: 4.5 / Sensuous: 1.5 / Suspense: 4 // Historical Flavor: 4 / Laughter: 4 / Tears: 4½

While enjoyed reading Penelope Williamson's debut book, Beloved Rogue, and would not even put it down when Sparky begged with those beautiful puppy-dog eyes to go for a walk, there was just something about it that made it a 'do not understand where this heroine is coming from' read.

Do you remember that guy in high school that everybody liked and wanted to be around?   The one all the girls were secretly in love with?   The All-American football quarterback.   The class president.   The homecoming king.   The valedictorian.   And he was gorgeous, charismatic and a natural-born leader.   That is the picture Williamson painted when she slowly revealed the layers of Jamie, the eighth Lord of Maxwell.   There seemed to be nothing that Jamie wasn't competently capable of accomplishing.   He was a leader, a warrior, a poet, a musician, an artist, a thinker, a lover, a friend, an adventurer, loyal, honorable, etc.

Alexia is a "Daddy's Girl" down to the tips of her chewed off nails.   She is introduced as having little compassion for the stable boy's dilemma when she wins his best suit of clothing (and almost only suit) in a dice game so she can sneak out of Thirlwall Castle by blending in with her father's men when he leaves to attend a March Meeting.   (A day of truce called between feuding English and Scottish clans in an attempt to settle differences legally.)   The English Sir Thomas Carleton (served ten years as warden for English West March) and Scottish Lord John Maxwell (Scottish warden) were the worst two reivers of the lot.   Alexia just wanted to see one of those hated Maxwell's up close.   Sir Thomas blustered and fussed at Alexia when he discovered her among his men, but it was obvious she would suffer no punishment from a father that adored his tomboy daughter.   (Having no son, Sir Thomas raised Alexia with sword, lance and crossbow in her hands.)

Fourteen year old Alexia Carleton met seventeen year old Jamie Maxwell as the two "boys" ran from the hated Johnstones when she was caught laughing at Sandie Johnstone's misfortune as the boys played football while their fathers were in negotiations.   After an adventurous chase through the market and eluding the hive of Johnstone brothers, Alexia fell in love with Jamie that day when he left her with a parting kiss.

Five years later Sir Thomas, Alexia and her older sister, Evie, were headed to Carlisle Castle, the home of Alexia's betrothed, Seymour Howard (the new English warden).   Williamson inserted a clever surprise before introducing Alexia's betrothed.   It seems Sir Thomas forced a marriage on Alexia three years earlier to merchant, Nicholas Forster, who left the day after his marriage to lead a Russian expedition from which he never returned.   The most surprising revelation was that Alexia left her marriage bed still a virgin because Nicholas fell asleep before consummating his union.

Alexia has resigned herself to marriage to the attractive young man who was one of Queen Elizabeth's favorites when she hears a voice from her past.   Malcolm Maxwell, Jamie's crippled brother, joins the Carletons in Seymour's antechamber.   Seymour captured Malcolm when pursuing a raiding party at Bewcastle Waste and issued a ransom demand to the new Lord of Maxwell, Jamie.

Alexia was not the only member of the kissing party to fall in love five years ago.   When Jamie infiltrated Carlisle Castle to rescue Malcolm, he takes the woman he has wanted for years as well.   For six weeks Jamie holds Alexia as hostage for ransom at Kilchurn Castle (home of his Aunt, Lady Madeleine Campbell, dowager countess of Argyle).   Jamie and Alexia waste minimal time worrying about being long-term enemies before they give in to their mutual desires and become unashamed lovers.   It is no surprise that the many, many love scenes that follow Jamie and Alexia throughout the remainder of the book are not sizzling, and contain very little graphic detail in spite of the passion and emotion because Beloved Rogue was written in 1988.

It is from Auntie Mad that Alexia learns that Jamie can never marry her because the Maxwell Clan will always take first place in his life.   Besides, the current laws forbade marriage between the English and Scots.

Williamson does the most remarkable job of seamlessly weaving into the plot actual historical characters and how unfolding historical events conspire to aid Jamie and Alexia on their path to a happily-ever-after.   When Jamie is arrested by James Stuart, King James VI of Scotland for abducting and raping the Englishwoman, he faces a traitor's death.   While Jamie languishes in the tower at Stirling Castle, Auntie Mad's ambitious son, Colin Campbell, sixth Earl of Argyle, shows his hatred of his cousin by prompting guards to mistreat Jamie before his trial.

Argyle is to be disappointed, though, because Queen Elizabeth prompts King James to force Jamie to marry Alexia -- in an attempt to stop the borderland feuding.   Thus, the 'true to her county and family' Alexia finds herself married and carted off to Caerlaverock Castle in Scotland.   Where the English Carleton / Scots Maxwell feud takes place on a personal level.   The difficulties that arise between the protagonists is best described by Jamie:

". . . their marriage wasn't likely to be an easy one.   She was proud and strong-willed, and he was proud and stubborn; a volatile combination that only love could bind."   (page 357)
And boy do Jamie and Alexia fight and misunderstand one another for many long months to come.   Alexia immediately instills mistrust in Jamie the morning after their marriage by spontaneously spouting out that Caerlaverock is not her home, she is not a Scot, nor a Maxwell.   Williamson further increases the tension and suspense in the book when Argyle and the English ambassador ask Sir Thomas to ask Alexia to spy on the Maxwells.

That one utterance from Alexia created a lack of sympathy towards the heroine of the novel.   She loved Jamie enough to carry on a six-week affair with him.   Is disappointed that they can't marry.   When gets to marry him, after all, takes offense because he was "forced" to marry her and gets all up in arms.   Alexia's hurtful statement causes Jamie to fling back his own 'well if you don't want to be a Maxwell, after you give me my heirs, you can hie yourself back to your beloved father' statement.   Felt more sympathy towards Jamie than Alexia because did not understand her reasoning.

Thankfully, Jamie and Alexia's sharped-tongued stubbornnesses were not the only difficulties they encountered.   The supporting characters in the book were wonderfully written and added much turmoil, intrigue and additional angst to the book.

Really liked Malcolm, even though he was extremely bitter, having suffered his whole life with a deformity of one shoulder being higher than the other, causing him to drag one foot slightly behind the other.   Malcolm espoused a wisdom far beyond his seventeen years.   Loved the way Williamson revealed layer after layer of Malcolm's personality as he grew throughout the story.   (Particularly liked the scene with Alexia where he suggested she run from the marriage and listed the reasons why.)

Really enjoyed the addition of Big Jock Armstrong, a monstrously big, larger-than-life character, who always seemed to be around to tease Jamie (using true Scottish words (had to look up meanings)) whenever Jamie had another roaring fight with Alexia.   Although Big Jock was not richly developed, his presence added greatly to the enjoyment of the book.

Have to jump on the bandwagon with Alexia when it came to Jamie's mother, Lady Annor Maxwell.   She was a harsh, unbending woman, who not only made life difficult for the Englishwoman in her midst, but constantly berated Jamie for being too soft to be laird.   Lady Annor had not one redeeming, likeable trait.   Found it amazing that her sons were as likeable as they were, having such a stringent, unhappy mother around.

Alexia was able to form a bond with the youngest two Maxwell boys, fourteen-year-old Diccon, and six-year-old Andy.   Although they did not take up a lot of space in the story, these two boys were fun, interesting additions to the story -- the most memorable being when Andy and Alexia were throwing snowballs.

Robin Maxwell was his mother's son.   Robin made no secret that he wished he was sitting in the High Seat instead of Jamie.   Williamson did a great job of creating many layers to Robin.   It was easy to automatically dislike Robin because he might be conspiring to kill Jamie.   But it was just as easy to feel compassion for Robin because he had such a harsh mother and was struggling with his position in life.

Alexia felt big and gauche around the tiny "epitome of ideal feminine beauty" that was Elspeth Campbell.   It didn't help matters that sixteen-year-old, rich, politically powerful Elspeth had been promised to Jamie.   Even though Alexia wanted Jamie for herself, she couldn't help but feel guilty for stealing Elspeth's husband-to-be.   Williamson meagerly developed Elspeth's personality, but used her character to add more suspense and emotion to the story when accidents began to befall Alexia.

Another character that played a major role in the story while staying the background was Evelyn "Evie" Carleton, who came to live with Alexia at Caerlaverock.   Alexia promised Evie a home with her because she felt guilty and responsible for Evie's burned, ravaged face (which remained covered with a gauze mask).   Williamson cleverly revealed through tiny tidbits of information dropped throughout the story that Evie had been a vain, selfish child and resented Alexia because she got to marry the most perfect of men.

A surprising addition to the story was Alexia's budding friendship with Katherine, the old Lord Maxwell's mistress, mostly known as 'the lady of the bog.'   It was difficult to understand the nuances that Williamson was trying to portray as Katherine and Alexia interacted.   What would really like to know, though, is why was Alexia drinking the foul-tasting brew each and every time she visited Katherine's hut . . . and what was it for.

Must not forget the addition of Rufus Hall to the cast of characters.   Rufus was a young gentleman, born the seventh son to an impoverished family who served as steward to Sir Thomas.   Rufus's call to fame was the spitefulnesses that he and Alexia engaged in.

One last character mentioned in the book, but never once appeared is Lady Edwina Carleton, Alexia's mother.   Apparently Alexa's relationship with her mother did not merit her mother's appearance in the book.

"She knew what it was to have a mother who always found fault.   Her own mother, Lady Edwina, felt nothing but contempt for her younger daughter and had never bothered to hide it."   (page 119)
Never understood how Alexia could have developed into such a self-confident, determined, outspoken, strong-willed woman if she was raised by a fault-finding mother.   Was Williamson trying to tell the reader that a daughter can dismiss a mother as easily as an author can?   It just didn't ring true!

While the volatility of the relationship between Jamie and Alexia inspired them to the greatest heights of love, it was that constant unpredictability that lessened the enjoyment factor of the book.   Cannot understand why someone would want to be in a relationship of constant upheaval.   Surely, even that much 'make-up' sex cannot be worth the constant fighting between two strong-willed people!

In conclusion, Beloved Rogue is an enjoyable, but not must-read Historical Romance.   Williamson created: {1} Jamie: the perfect alpha, hunky, hero (in spite of a disapproving harridan of a mother) who never seemed to make a mis-step (except when it came to dealing with the heroine); {2} Alexia: a heroine that was too strongly opinionated, even though she, too, had a mother who faulted her every action; {3} many wonderfully-written and engaging supporting characters that added depth and interest to the story; {4} several exciting sequences of action that added an adventurous flavor to the book; {5} a deeply moving emotional story that brought laughter and tears; {6} love-at-first-sight romance and all the foibles that come with such an event; {7} lots of passionate lovemaking peppered the book, even though there was no sizzle or spark; {8} a suspenseful aura permeated the story: {a} how can Jamie and Alexia resolve their volatile differences to reach a loving understanding; {b} will Jamie be usurped by his brother; {c} who is trying to kill Alexia; {9} actual historical characters added realism to story line; and {10} the requisite happily-ever-after.
--Vonda M. Reid (Thursday, February 23, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.)   [215]

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Beloved Rogue Quotations:
222. . . understood for the first time that the true horror of death was not its inevitability, but its permanence.
232And then she would have to live with the choice.

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Characters Found In "Beloved Rogue"
Character / Location Description / Relationships
Jamie Maxwell
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[Hero] bright blond hair streaked platinum by the sun; lean; quick; ran with easy grace of stallion; fearless reckless ferocity (12) athlete (16) hard sinewy muscle encased his rib cage (17) bright gold streaked with silver and cut close to his head so that it resembled a gilded helmet; strange dusky green, like river moss eyes; high, sculptured cheekbones; thin blade of a nose; wide, flexible mouth; air of casual elegance about him (18) long, slender fingers; clean, well cared for nails (20) talent for acting (42) 17 + 5 = 22-y-o (44) moved with aura of hard elegance; every inch the lord (50) played lute; lithe, athletic body; would outshine all queen's courtiers (65) tight buttocks; slender muscular thighs (67) feline quality to way he moved; lean, muscular elegance (68) broad, muscular chest (85) loved music; played virginals and the spinet (92) eighth Lord of Maxwell (336) Earl of Morton (361)
Alexia Carleton
Thirlwall Castle, England
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[Heroine] tall (2) 14y-o (2) raised as son, taught to use sword, lance, long bow (5) father's favorite (9) flat as a kneading board; long and skinny as a Maypole; nose too thin and haughty; mouth too full; legs were gangly; feet too big; dark brown hair, with autumn lights of red and gold (18) gnawed, stubby nails (20) 19-y-o (23) remarkable eyes, tawny and flecked with umber (32) strong bones and muscles of wrist (40) grace and beauty; rare strength of spirit (44) thick, waist-length hair (47) small, yet round full breasts (71) couldn't carry a tune (92) all sharp bones; sharper words; mind that reasoned like a man's (114) woman of steel and earth and fire; mysterious (177) long, slender legs (178)
. . . . . .
AphroditeAlexia's falcon; wedding gift from Jamie (148) sensitive, excitable creatures (174)
Big Jock Armstrong
[Secondary Character] giant man; massive head; black beard (38) wide grin; craggy face (45) taciturn (207)
Maggie Armstrong
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[Rare Appearances] washing woman / cousin to Big Jock; large woman (175) talked freely (176)
Mary [Armstrong]
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[One Appearance] washing woman / Maggie's older sister (175) hushing sister (176)
Richie Armstrong[No Appearance In Book] Wat's uncle; foul sort (63)
Wat Armstrong
[One Appearance] friend and ally of Jamie's; stopped by his castle during travels // massive head; tangled black hair; flowing beard (59) huge man; broad shoulders (60)
___ Armstrong[One Appearance] Wat's daughter; curly black hair; saucy, dimpled smile (61)
Molly Bell
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[Rare Appearances] maid; recently married; pregnant (211)
Nickie Bell
Threave, Scotland
[No Appearance In Book] killed in raid on Threave
Willie Bell
Thirlwall Castle, England
[One Appearance] stableboy; Alexia won his clothes dicing in back stall (2) skinny; tow-headed (4)
Archie Campbell
Earl of Argyle
[No Appearance In Book] Madeleine's husband (74) died fifteen years ago (76)
Colin Campbell
Sixth Earl of Argyle
Stirling Castle, Scotland
[Secondary Character] Madeleine's only child; dour-faced man; "so godly, he thinks he sweats holy water" (75) Privy Council at Stirling Castle (99) ambitious; Protestant; political arena suited to his special talents, his ability to rule (100) obsidian eyes; narrow, pinched face; huge, spotless desk (101) obsequious (309)
Elspeth Campbell
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[Secondary Character] all white and gold -- a sugared confection out of a comfit box; pale, silver-blond hair, pile in tight curls atop her head; tiny; delicate as Belgian lace; 26-y-o; epitome of ideal feminine beauty (96) luminous blue eyes (97) cousin to Jamie's mother; orphaned young; ward of Jamie's father; rich; politically powerful (98)
Lady Madeleine Campbell
dowager countess of Argyle
Kilchurn Castle, Scotland
[Secondary Character] Jamie's Auntie Mad, lived at Kilchurn Castle (49) large woman; adored Jamie; Jamie's aunt (73) loved to gossip; daughter of a moderately prosperous local miller (75) mammoth shoulders (76)
Lady Edwina Carleton[No Appearance In Book] Alexia's mother (1) always found fault; felt nothing but contempt for her young daughter, never bothered to hide it (119)
Evelyn "Evie" Carleton
Thirlwall Castle, England
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[Secondary Character] Alexia's sister; brown hair (3) would never marry (9) older sister; gauze mask covered her face (24) scarred, burn-ravaged face (30) description of mask (154)
Sir Thomas Carleton
Thirlwall Castle
English Side of Border
[Major Secondary Character] Alexia's father; tall; burly (1) chief of Carleton clan; 10 years as warden for English West march 97) gnarled fingers (8) no direct mail heirs (9) lined leathery face; paunch (10) protruding stomach (23) considerable girth; gout (32) simple, blunt, old Border raider (114)
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[One Appearance] gardener
Carlisle Castle, England
[One Appearance] Carlisle Castle guard member (35)
[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] queen's courtier (65)
Nicholas Forster
[One Appearance] Alexia's husband // 30-y-o; more presentable than handsome; merchant-adventurer, partner in prestigious Muscovy Company; if next venture a success, would be one of wealthiest men in England (26) shorter than Alexia by a head; body thickly slabbed with muscle; covered with pelt of curling black hair (27) working 18-hour days for last three months; outfitting Resolute for Russian expedition; rode 250 miles from Long for wedding (28)
Fergie Hall
[No Appearances] Rufus's brother; Jamie won horse from him
Rufus Hall
Thirlwall Castle, England
[Rare Appearances] stocky young man; dun-colored hair; father's steward (3) "never passed up opportunity to get her in trouble" (4) pompous (9) gentleman; younger son of impoverished family (9) youngest of seven sons to impoverished family; without money had little prospects, no hope of future; too dull; too common-looking (248)
Seymour Howard
Carlisle Castle
English Side of England
[Major Secondary Character] Alexia's betrothed; young man; elaborately dressed; dark head; gold-studded earring sparkled in one ear; warm smile lit up his face; dark brown eyes (23) handsome; soulful eyes (25) one of the queen's favorite's (31) beard (32)
Angus Johnstone
[Rare Appearances] Alexia saved him when being chased by Maxwells / head of clan Johnstone; Jamie's bitterest enemy (190) fiery beard; black eyes (243)
Mat Johnstone
[No Appearances] at fair (158) Diccon's arch-rival (159)
Sandie Johnstone
[One Appearance] fiery red hair (12) heavy Scottish burr; thick; bony; loose-limbed joints; very big hands; hard, flinty black, cruel-looking eyes (13)
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[Major Secondary Character] tall; thin; dressed all in black; pale, sharp-boned oval face with winged brows soaring above ash-gray eyes (164) Witch of Solway; rumored mistress of old Lord Maxwell; resident in bog since before Jamie's birth (176) lived alone in a hut in middle of marsh with deadly quicksands; hut filled with jars and boxes of mysterious potions; exotic animal for a house pet; white, ageless face; dresses all in black; speaks little; rarely makes sense (188) warm, husky laugh (197) bastard daughter of bishop of Carlisle (219)
Captain Mapes
Carlisle Castle, England
[One Appearance] captain of the Carlisle Castle guard (34) conscientious man (35)
Andy Maxwell
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[Secondary Character] Jamie's younger brother (120) curling blond hair; large, green Maxwell eyes; 6-y-o (135)
Lady Annor Maxwell
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[Major Secondary Character] Jamie's mother; Archie's baby sister; hammering duty into her sons (76) forced abdication (107) bright red-gold hair; dark pewter gray hair; face too arrogant and harsh to be beautiful; Jamie's face (115) tiny lines aged her face; fierce Maxwell pride radiated from every inch (118) could not read nor write (224)
Diccon Maxwell
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[Secondary Character] Jamie's younger brother (120) early teens; looked like Robin; thickly built; redheaded (136) 14-y-o (334)
Lord John Maxwell
[Brief Appearance] Jamie's father; Scottish warden (4) five sons (10) half a head taller than Sir Thomas; hair and beard were bright red (11)
John Maxwell
[No Appearance] John and Annor's first son; drowned young (76) slower; more cautious; nine when died; one year older than Jamie (181)
Malcolm Maxwell
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[Major Secondary Character] Jamie's brother (33) small; frail-looking; very dark; dragged one foot slightly behind the other caused by deformity of one shoulder being higher than the other (36); fine black brows (36) Maxwell green eyes; sharp, foxlike face (37) dark, sardonic face (119) most complex; a dark, butter underside to his humor (120) face similar to Jamie's; high, sculptured cheekbones; long, narrow nose; wide-spaced, lazy-lidded eyes; 17-y-o; hard, bitter set to mouth (268)
Robin Maxwell
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[Major Secondary Character] Jamie's brother // father's fiery red hair; equally bright, neatly clipped beard; green Maxwell eyes (48) chief pastime: entering and wagering on horse races (227)
Nana[No Appearance] midwife who birthed Katherine; loved, cared for, raised Katherine (219) herbalist; silly, foolish boasting; tiny mole on nose (220)
Mistress Parsons
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[No Appearance] miller's wife; just had son (175)
Geoffrey Peele [Peale]
Caerlaverock, Scotland
[One Appearance] unadorned black doublet; air of a gentleman; thin, aesthetic face; chilling blue eyes; friend of Annor's (283) priest; Peale (291)
Raleigh[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] queen's courtier (65)
Satan's SteedJamie's black stallion
Sir Wat Scott
attended March Meeting / from Hermitage (237)
James Stuart
King James VI of Scotland
Stirling Castle, Scotland
[Actual Historical Character / Minor Secondary Character] Queen Elizabeth's legitimate successor; queen's cousin (100) young; 20-y-o; thin; pale; awkward as stick doll in plain black clothes; thin, bony fingers (107) endured poverty and humiliation in Scotland; desired to rule England (108)
Mary Stuart of Scotland
Chartley Castle, Staffordshire
[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] Queen of Scotland // widowed young by impotent dauphin of France; married Lord Darnley (pretty face, degenerate); killed for James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell (flamboyantly attractive; unbridled lusts; hunger for throne) (314)
Queen Elizabeth Tudor[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] English (7) raucous, fun-loving court; loved handsome, virile young men of wit, charm, daring (31) 51-y-o (100) Queen Elizabeth I of England (101)
[No Appearance] man in London that Argyle and ambassador would pass along intelligence to (113)
{un-named}[Rare Appearances] in league with Argyle // queen's ambassador short, balding man of indeterminate age; bland, nondescript features (101) genius at manipulating people with words (114)

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Penelope Williamson
        aka: Penn Williamson
        aka: Elizabeth Lambert
Comprehensive Booklist:
    ♣   Fantastic Fiction
Penelope Williamson Book List:
    ♠   FictionDB
Penn Williamson Book List:
    ♠   FictionDB
Elizabeth Lambert Book List:
    ♠   FictionDB

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Beloved Rogue Reviews:
RatedPostedSiteNotes, Comments, Etc.
4.00 average{5 reviews}Amazonas of: February 23, 2012
--{no reviews}Barnes and Nobleas of: February 24, 2012
3.50 average{2 reviews}Good Readsas of: February 24, 2012
2.50{2 ratings}Library Thingas of: February 24, 2012
3.30 average{7 ratings}Paperback Swapas of: February 24, 2012
--10-06-2011Regan's Romance ReviewsArticle about Penelope Williamson
4.00 average{1 review}Shelfarias of: February 24, 2012
--{no reviews}We Readas of: February 24, 2012
3.8502-24-2012Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, Good Reads, Shelfari

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♥  Disclaimer:   I Purchased This Book
♥  Very Subjective Rating
♥  Willing to share Cheat Sheet
    ♦  in whole or in part
    ♦  WordPerfect or PDF
♣  Will add your Beloved Rogue review link to table, just ask

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