Saturday, March 3, 2012

Suzanne Robinson -- Lady Defiant

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ .   {4.25}
Action: ♠♠♠♠ / Emotion: ♣♣♣♣. / Romance: ♥♥♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦. / Suspense: ♠♠♠
Action: 4 / Emotion: 4.5 / Romance: 4 / Sensuous: 1.5 / Suspense: 3 // Historical Flavor: 4.5 / Laughter: 6 / Tears: 3

The second book in Suzanne Robinson's The Queen's Spies Quartet, Lady Defiant, was a wonderful, emotional, one-sitting read.   Robinson's skill to immediately draw a reader into the lives and emotions of her characters is amazing.   The opening chapter drew immediate emotional investment into the lives of both the hero and heroine as they met for the first time with such 'true to life' issues that (based on personal experience) were easily identifiable.

Nicholas "Blade" Edward Fitzstephen, Sieur [Sir] de Racine, has been dragged by his father, Lord Andrew Fitzstephen, to Richmond Hall (in Northern England) to be introduced to Oriel Richmond, the heiress residing within.   This very concise, wonderfully-written scene featured two young people who were being forced to meet by family members who were determined to promote a marriage for their own selfish reasons.   There were several relationship revealing quotes that revealed a lack of familial caring and set the tone for the rest of story:

"No, Father, you're wrong.   You haven't raised a hand to me since I was sixteen and big enough to hit back.   I haven't forgotten those lashings, or how you left me bleeding and locked in a bare stone chamber when I was but fourteen."   (Blade: page 11)

"You always did twist the truth to suit your illusions," Blade said.   "As I told you, I'll come back when you're dead.   There's nothing to keep me here now that you've driven Mother to her grave."   (Blade: page 11)

. . . then she realized that while she had been enraptured, he had been offended by her and her appearance.   All the years of encountering youths and men who paid her slight notice came thundering back into her memory.   The evenings spent watching while others danced, the hunts spent pursuing a deer or fowl while other girls were instead pursued themselves -- these had driven her to seek comfort in learning and solitary pursuits.   (Oriel: page 11)

"I swear to you, my words were hastily spoken and ill-reasoned on account of my anger at my father.   A meanness of spirit overcomes me when I'm in his company for long, and this time I struck out at him and hit you instead.   I take an oath before God that none of my insults are true."   (Blade: page 13)

"Ofttimes we speak our truest feelings when our words are least guarded, my lord."   (Oriel: page 13)
When she was orphaned at eight, Oriel's beloved Great-Uncle Thomas Richmond brought her with him to Richmond Hall to be harassed and harangued by two bitter, spiteful aunts and their self-concerned children.   Robinson did an excellent job of writing realistic interactions between members of the Richmond family which explained the personal development of the residents within.

Aunt Faith Richmond was the widow of Oriel's grandfather's middle son and she resented the wealth Oriel inherited upon her grandfather's death several months ago because she had four daughters to marry off.   Four daughters that Robinson richly ascribed with the following characteristics: {1} plain as their names (Joan, Jane, Agnes, Amy); {2} bore spite toward anyone the slightest bit more presentable; {3} an unfortunate shade of brown hair that looked as if they stood on their heads in ashes; {4} "not one of them had eyebrows, and only little Amy had a chin"; and finally, Blade called them {5} cheese-witted little hedgehogs.

Aunt Livia Richmond was the predominate aunt who bellowed and bullied her way throughout the entire book.   She was the tall, massive, fleshy, beringed widow of Oriel's grandfather's eldest son.   Again, Robinson revealed her talent when it came to revealing the natural inclination of sons exposed to a mother that showed an obvious bias to her youngest.   Robinson added realism to the story by the addition of multiple scenes featuring the bickering between the brothers (and Livia always championing the youngest).

The youngest charming, temperate, witty, penurious, gambling son, Leslie Richmond, was the only cousin who befriended Oriel.   It was easy to like Leslie, even through he "used his mother's partiality to jab at his brothers until they bled."   Leslie was determined to overcome his lack of inheritance by obtaining an appointment from Her Majesty as one of her gentlemen pensioners.

Livia's middle son, Robert Richmond, stayed mostly in the background, but when he did voice his opinion, it was one that had all the family members cringing in fear.   During this turbulent time in history (1564-1565), Elizabeth sat on the throne that Bloody Mary had previously occupied.   While Bloody Mary burned Protestant heretics at the stake, Elizabeth, on the other hand, tried to turn a blind eye to Catholics who would practice their faith quietly.   Robert, was a very vocal, Elizabeth-bashing Catholic

George Richmond, Livia's firstborn, inherited the title of Lord Richmond.   George's pompous, steady personality enabled him to fade into the background even though he was the leader of the Richmond clan.   George, basically, seemed unremarkable until his final conversation with Oriel at the end of the book -- which revealed he had a sense of humor and knew what was going on around his estate after all.   It is the small, interesting additions like this scene that added to the realistic, enjoyable nature of Robinson's story.

Blade used his astonishing good looks and his angelically-gifted voice to bed his way through the politically-connected women in his mother's home country of France, to gain knowledge about Charles de Guise, the ruthless, cunning, Cardinal of Lorraine who {1} had spies in every court in Europe; {2} persecuted French Protestants; {3} schemed to control the French boy king; and {4} had an unmatched desire for power.

Blade reported to his friend and mentor, fellow intelligencer, Christian de Rivers (book one, Lady Gallant) that the Cardinal was seeking information that could endanger Queen Elizabeth's entitlement to the English throne.   Blade was sent to Richmond Hall in the guise of a suitor to the resident heiress, so he could interview Thomas Richmond, a friend of Lord Henry Percy, heir to the Earl of Northumberland, who had won the heart of King Henry VIII's wife, Anne Boleyn, and may have married her in secret.

Uncle Thomas was Oriel's life-line.   He loved her unconditionally.   He spent hours with her in his "study" teaching her history, languages and supported her desire to be an independent thinker.   Oriel refused to be led by anyone, which made Blade's job of seducing from Oriel any information regarding incriminating documentation regarding Henry Percy and Anne Boleyn incredibly difficult.

Robinson cleverly aided Blade's entry back into Oriel's life by using a character that was featured in the first book of The Queen's Spies Quartet.   The notorious highwayman, Jack Midnight, who had once captured both Christian and Blade (more details found in Lady Gallant) attacked Blade and his entourage en route.   Not only was Blade left bleeding on Richmond Hall's doorstep, but Blade now had knowledge that someone in the area was paying Jack to waylay travelers, thus increasing the already suspenseful nature of the plot.

Robinson has a natural ability to write a story that includes secondary characters that add depth and interest to the lives of the main character.   René, Blade's servant and bodyguard, who had been hired by his mother to protect him since he was a boy was just such a character.   René constantly remained on the periphery, taunting and aiding Blade as he struggled through life.   Although René remained in the background, he drew interest and was so memorable that he inspired a desire to want to know so much more about him.

Lady Defiant was full of twists as turns as Blade fell in love with Oriel as he was seducing information from her.   Oriel, too, fell in love with the glorious Blade and began to help him in his quest to find the information he needed among Uncle Thomas's mountain of books, journals and papers.   Robinson did a great job of keeping Blade and Oriel sensually aware of the other, but as expected in an older novel (January 1993), the love scenes between Blade and Oriel were emotional, not very graphic and contained minimal sizzle and heat.

Found it interesting that Oriel was the polar opposite of Nora (the heroine from Lady Gallant).   While Christian was forced to pursue Nora in book one of this series, Oriel was the ardent, unrelenting, pursuer of Blade in this second book of the series.   Robinson revealed her talent by writing characters with such wide-ranging, both ends of the spectrum personalities.   Oriel did not come across as a desperate heroine who had to have the love of her life, but rather as a quick-witted, determined, strong-willed heroine who was compelled to save the life of her wounded-soul hero.

In conclusion, really enjoyed Suzanne Robinson's second book of The Queen's Spies Quartet, Lady Defiant.   She featured: {1} an intelligent, gorgeous, hunky, alpha hero, whose tortured soul convinced him he was to remain alone forever after.   {2} A very strong-willed, determined, intelligent, 'will not be denied' heroine, who struggled with her own lack of self-worth.   {3} Plenty of action and adventure scenes that kept the story moving at a swift pace.   {4} A deep personal, emotional connection to the lead characters that lead to laughter and tears.   {5} A tense level of suspense permeated the entire story: {a} would Oriel ever convince Blade he was salvageable; {b} would Blade and Oriel get the information they needed to save the queen from the Cardinal; {c} who is the traitor in the Richmond family.   {6} A constant sensual awareness flowed between Blade and Oriel, even thought the actual love scenes lacked heat and sizzle.   {7} A depth of historical accuracy about the life and activities of royal personages and their machinations during 1594-1595 interwoven into the plot of the story.   {8} Interesting, well-written, true-to-life secondary characters added a rich sense of family dynamics to the story.   {9} A too-brief mention of Christian and Nora from book one of the series.   (Wished Robinson had spent some time with Nora and Arthur).   {10} The introduction of Derry, the hero of book three (Lady Valiant).

Although this series has not become a favorite, it is nevertheless, one well worth reading.   Would readily recommend to any reader who enjoys the older Historical Romances.

Caveat: Would recommend that the four books of The Queen's Spies Quartet be read in order.   It is much easier to understand the connections between the characters and to follow the historical progression.
--Vonda M. Reid (Wednesday, February 29, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.)     [217]

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The Queen's Spies Quartet
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.01-1992Lady GallantChristian Richard Villard de Rivers, Viscount Montfort Eleanora "Nora" Becket
02.08-1992Lady DefiantNicholas "Blade" Edward Fitzstephen, Sieur de Racine Oriel Richmond
03.07-1993Lady ValiantRobin St. John, Lord Derry, Viscount MoorefieldDorothea "Thea" Philadelphia Hunt
04.01-1995Lord of EnchantmentMorgan St. JohnPenelope "Pen" Grace Fairfax

The St. John Family Duet (Sub-Series)
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.07-1993Lady ValiantRobin St. John, Lord Derry, Viscount MoorefieldDorothea "Thea" Philadelphia Hunt
02.01-1995Lord of EnchantmentMorgan St. JohnPenelope "Pen" Grace Fairfax

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Characters Found In "Lady Defiant"
Character / Location Description / Relationships Found In
Blade Fitzstephen
Sieur de Racine

[Hero] mother was French; inherited title (7) tall; grey eyes so bright theat they seemed silver; straight brows; dark brown-black hair; full lower lip; heavy gold signet ring surrounded third finger; grace of manner; much-tried patience; skepticism; dark graceful creature with alluring voice and argent eyes (8) smooth cheeks; sharply angled line of jaw; startling jaws (9) chucks of his childhood shrouded in the blackness of lost memory; living in fear that some unsuspected offense by his morther or him would ignite his father's fury; took refuge in study; fallen prey to a demon rage (16) Nicholas (18) fell into hands of Midnight 8-y-a; learned lawless arts from Midnight; reckless; free (40) wood and spice scent (60) a voice that would charm an angel from heaven (76) queen sent Blade quillon dagger and named him her Dagger (286)1. Lady Gallant
2. Lady Defiant
3. Lady Valiant (m)
4. Lord of Enchantment (m)
Oriel Richmond[Heroine] 20-y-o; heiress; orphaned 8-y-a (1) wildly curly auburn-hued hair (2) matched Aunt Livia in height (4) only child of grandfather's youngest son (5) sought comfort in learning and solitary pursuits (12) small, pointed chin; wide forehead; resembled face of a fairy; eyes reminded him of Loire Valley in spring (15) clever (30) dark black-read hair; slender build (33) green eyes (50) orphaned at 12; Uncle Thomas came to get her; cared for her (96) unpredictable; passionate (125) intellectual curiosity (165)2. Lady Defiant
3. Lady Valiant (m)
. . .. . .. . .
Queen Anne Boleyn[Actual Historical Figure] Thomas hanging her portrait (1) clever; a great wit; married King Henry VIII; head cut off (2) all wildness and courage (3) long face; long nose; small, bow-shaped mouth, its diminutive size gave her a pinched, self-satisfied look; black, almond-shaped eyes stared in mocking amusement (149)1. Lady Gallant (m)
2. Lady Defiant (m)
William Cecil[Actual Historical Figure] Queen Elizabeth's chief minister (20)1. Lady Gallant (m)
2. Lady Defiant (m)
3. Lady Valiant
4. Lord of Enchantment (m)
Queen Elizabeth
(Queen Bess)
[Actual Historical Figure] dark, flashing eyes (149) Elizabeth Regina (286)1. Lady Gallant
2. Lady Defiant (m)
3. Lady Valiant (m)
4. Lord of Enchantment (m)
Duc de Guise[Actual Historical Figure] a Guise brother; Mary Stewart's uncle; cunning; ruthless (15)2. Lady Defiant (m)
Margaret Lennox[Actual Historical Figure] [daughter of Mary Stewart] plotted her whole life to claim England (39)2. Lady Defiant (m)
Cardinal of Lorraine
Charles de Guise
[Actual Historical Figure] [Secondary Character] villain // a Guise brother; Mary Stewart's uncle; cunning; ruthless (15) Charles de Guise (20) had spies in every court in Europe; persecuting French Protestants; scheming to control the French boy king; bigot; unmatched desire for power (20) golden hair; demeanor of a prince; son and brother of a duke; wielded power of prince ruthlessly (182) long, manicured fingers (183)2. Lady Defiant (m)
3. Lady Valiant
Catherine de Medici[Actual Historical Figure] the French king's mother (20)2. Lady Defiant (m)
Lord Henry Percy[Actual Historical Figure] had won Anne Boleyn's heart (4) heir to the Earl of Northumberland (25)2. Lady Defiant (m)
Matthew Stewart[Actual Historical Figure] married to King Henry's niece; son is a Catholic; had a claim to the throne; being sent to Scotland; dangerous (39)2. Lady Defiant (m)
Mary Stewart
Queen of Scotland
[Actual Historical Figure] wished to wrest England from Elizabeth with help of French uncles2. Lady Defiant (m)
3. Lady Valiant (m)
4. Lord of Enchantment (m)
Cardinal Wolsey[Actual Historical Figure] Blade wanted to search his records regarding marriage between Anne Boleyn and Henry Percy (26)2. Lady Defiant (m)
Hugh Wothorpe[Actual Historical Figure] [Secondary Character] Oriel's latest suitor (27) boorishness; kept in the Tower since he was a child by Henry VIII, released when Elizabeth came to the throne (28) long nose (29)2. Lady Defiant
. . .. . . . . .
Marie de Bourbon:[No Appearance] wagers that she will be Blade's next mistress (19)2. Lady Defiant (m)
Lord Braithwaite[One Appearance] brought gift from queen to Blade // queen's household; older man; head shaped like quince (286)2. Lady Defiant
Alain Le Brun[Secondary Character] villain; served Cardinal of Lorraine // messenger; resembling a cadaver more than a man; macabre appearance (183) tall; skeletal; the appearance of a body that had been placed in a crypt nigh onto three days (229) head like a skull and grayish skin (234)2. Lady Defiant
Cosimo[No Appearance] Italian apothecary (243)2. Lady Defiant
Derry[Book 3 Hero] Queen Elizabeth's intelligencer; working with Christian to help Blade and Oriel // a familiar of Nora's; messenger sent by Christian (118) golden hair (203) son of Viscount Moorefield (210)2. Lady Defiant
3. Lady Valiant
4. Lord of Enchantment
Lord Andrew Fitzstephen[Secondary Character] Blade's father // knew Oriel's father (5) tall; figure thickened with age; scowl was only expression (7) "twisted the truth to suit your illusions" (11)2. Lady Defiant
Lady Fitzstephen[No Appearance] Blade's mother; died 8 years ago (15)2. Lady Defiant
Hal Holydean[One Appearance] biggest men Blade ever saw; height and bulk of three men; ox-like placid gazes; Oriel hired the brothers to be her personal guard (305)2. Lady Defiant
Edmund Holydean[One Appearance] same as brother above2. Lady Defiant
Bevis Holydean [One Appearance] same as brother above2. Lady Defiant
James Holydean [One Appearance] same as brother above2. Lady Defiant
Martin Holydean[One Appearance] same as brother above2. Lady Defiant
Jean-Paul[Secondary Character] served Cardinal of Lorraine // young priest; shining black hair (76) smooth of face; smile of an angel confronted with a cherub; cheeks bore maiden's rosy hue; handled sword like mercenary (282)2. Lady Defiant
3. Lady Valiant
4. Lord of Enchantment
Johnny[No Appearance] Midnight's man (192)2. Lady Defiant
Long Willie[One Appearance] carried Oriel into tree // one of Jack Midnight's men (294) so tall, looked like a tree with legs (295)2. Lady Defiant
Claude de la Marche[Secondary Character] Blade seduced to gain information // mistress of princes, cardinals and spies (14) white, plump arms; smothering scent of lilacs; diamond buttons; full-bodies, rich beauty; pale gold, silken gently curling, cascading hair (18)2. Lady Defiant
Jack Midnight[Secondary Character] villain // dispossessed farmer turned outlaw; carried a deep-seated hatred of nobility; abducted Christian as a child; trained him in thievery; found replacement in Blade (40) black hair had more silver; bore scar on his jaw from sword cut; eyes flashed bright black at anticipation of a fight and smell of blood (47)1. Lady Gallant
2. Lady Defiant
Marvelous Mag[Secondary Character] owned Bald Pelican; at one time Christian owned Mag; blond hair (204)1. Lady Gallant
2. Lady Defiant
3. Lady Valiant (m)
Meg[Secondary Character] maid from village to replace Nell (174)2. Lady Defiant
Nell[Secondary Character] Oriel's maid (9)2. Lady Defiant
René[Major Secondary Character] Blade's servant and bodyguard; been with him since a boy; first employed by Blade's mother; middle aged; could lift Blade; matched him at fencing (15)2. Lady Defiant
Agnes Richmond[Secondary Character] Faith's young daughter (6) unfortunate shade of brown hair, looked as if stood on head in ashes; no eyebrows; no chin; short neck (29)2. Lady Defiant
Amy Richmond[Secondary Character] Faith's young daughter (6) unfortunate shade of brown hair, looked as if stood on head in ashes; no eyebrows; short neck (29)2. Lady Defiant
Aunt Faith Richmond[Secondary Character] widow of Oriel's grandfather's middle son (5) skinny; resented Oriel's wealth when she had four daughters to marry off (29)2. Lady Defiant
George Richmond[Secondary Character] Oriel's cousin (7) Livia's firstborn; inherited title of Lord Richmond; mother's beefy frame; great one for proper gestures; pompous (28)2. Lady Defiant
Jane Richmond[Secondary Character] Faith's daughter; plain as name; bore spite toward anyone the slightest bit more presentable (6) 15-y-o; unfortunate shade of brown hair, looked as if stood on head in ashes; no eyebrows; no chin; short neck (29) cheese-witted little hedgehog (43)2. Lady Defiant
Joan Richmond[Secondary Character] Faith's daughter; plain as name; bore spite toward anyone the slightest bit more presentable (6) 17-y-o; unfortunate shade of brown hair, looked as if stood on head in ashes; no eyebrows; no chin; short neck (29) cheese-witted little hedgehog (43)2. Lady Defiant
Leslie Richmond[Secondary Character] Livia's youngest son; away much of the time (6) mother's favorite; used mother's partiality to jab at his brothers until they bled (28) abhorred country; preferred the south in London; loved attending court; gambling and dicing; greatest desire was to obtain an appointment for Her Majesty as one of her gentlemen pensioners; would be eligible for control of leases, wardships, and licenses, which would relieve his penurious state as a younger son; ready wit and charm; rarely lost his temper; one year older than Oriel (32) tall man; same dark black-read hair and slender build as Oriel (33) auburn hair; tall (205)2. Lady Defiant
3. Lady Valiant (m)
Aunt Livia Richmond[Major Secondary Character] tall woman; build of one of her hunting horses; habit of flaring her nostrils (4) beringed, fleshy hand could do much damage; wife of Oriel's grandfather's eldest son (5) brassy voice (9) massive build; more than a touch of masculinity; man's heavy jaw; heavy tread; soulless glare of a mercenary (109)2. Lady Defiant
Robert Richmond[Secondary Character] Livia's middle son // George's brother; stiff; bigoted; vocal claim of Catholic faith (36)2. Lady Defiant
Thomas Richmond[Major Secondary Character] Oriel's great-uncle (1) 61-y-o; walking-stick thin; skin almost transparent; hand shook; produced a fine Italian script; taught Oriel Greek and Latin (2) loved and collected shoes (30) lived with family long time (32) balding head (36)2. Lady Defiant
Christian de Rivers[Book 1 Hero] one of Queen Elizabeth's intelligencers; worked with Cecil // Blade's friend (20) abducted by Midnight as child; trained in thievery; enjoyed recklessness and freedom (40)01. Lady Gallant
02. Lady Defiant (m)
03. Lady Valiant
04. Lord of Enchantment
Nora de Rivers[Book 1 Heroine] Christian's wife (26)01. Lady Gallant
02. Lady Defiant (m)
04. Lord of Enchantment
Samuel[No Appearance] Midnight's man (192)2. Lady Defiant
Louise St. Michel[No Appearance] Blade's former mistress (19)2. Lady Defiant (m)
Earl of Vasterne[No Appearance] Christian's father (40)1. Lady Gallant
2. Lady Defiant (m)
(m) = mentioned   

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Suzanne Robinson
♠  Website
♣  pseudonym used by: Lynda S. Robinson
Suzanne Robinson Book List:
♠  Fantastic Fiction
♣  FictionDB
Lynda S. Robinson Book List:
♠  Fantastic Fiction
♣  FictionDB

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Lady Defiant Reviews:
RatedPostedSiteNotes, Comments, Etc.
C- / warm05-09-2009All About Romance 
4.50 average{2 reviews}Amazonas of: March 4, 2012
B-10-14-2008Aneca's Worldalso posted on Good Reads
4.00 average{1 rating}Barnes and Nobleas of: March 4, 2012
10 / 10 / 1007-25-2005Eye On Romance[pj] [qv]
3.50 average{2 reviews}Good Readsas of: March 4, 2012
3.42 average{6 ratings}Library Thingas of: March 4, 2012 {no reviews}
3.80 average{6 ratings}Paperback Swapas of: March 4, 2012 {no reviews}
4.00 average{1 review}Shelfarias of: March 4, 2012
4.2503-04-2012Wolf 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 Lady Defiant review link to table, just ask

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