Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Denee Cody -- Queen of the May

Rated: ♥ ♥ ♥ .   {3.90}
Action: ♠♠♠♠ / Emotion: ♣♣♣. / Romance: ♥♥♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦ / Suspense: ♠♠♠
Action: 4 / Emotion: 3.5 / Romance: 4 / Sensuous: 1 / Suspense: 3 // Medieval Flavor: 3 / Laughter: 1 / Teary: 2

Same author . . . . same series . . . . second book.   Why was it more enjoyable?   Not quite sure.   It just was.   Even though was disappointed in The Court of Love, the first book in The Mandeville Trilogy by Denée Cody, decided to go ahead and read the second book of the series, Queen of the May.   Liked this book much better because: {1} the story line was more enjoyable; {2} had more action and adventure scenes; {3} included Stephan and Juliana; and {4} had interesting supporting characters.   This book, however, had some of the same drawbacks as the first book: {1} lack of deep emotional connection to characters; {2} reduced medieval feeling to book; and {3} lack of sensuality.

Queen of the May takes place in 1202 England -- thirteen years after book one.   Met Alexander de Mandeville, the Baron of Wolfhurst when he was a young, impressionable knight in the first book of the trilogy.   The older, wiser Alexander has just arrived at his estate of Wolfhurst after spending twelve years fighting in the holy land with the now deceased King Richard.   Alexander finds that the village and his estate are in serious disrepair and that the greedy steward that oversaw Wolfhurst in his absence had not stored a surplus of goods, thus leaving the village to face a lean, difficult winter.

Alexander's first effort to prove to the villagers that he is interested in their welfare and will be a fair and honorable lord is to go after the wolf that attacked and killed a little girl.   Alexander asks his newly knighted cousin, Geoffrey de Mandeville to stay and oversee his estate as he heads into the woods to trap the wolf.

One of the things that did not like about Queen of the May was the fact that Cody did not answer the questions that arose regarding the de Mandeville family relationships while reading the first book of the trilogy.   In fact, instead of answering those questions, became even more confused.   When met, William de Mandeville, Lord Essex in The Court of Love, he is featured as the father of Alexander and his older brother, Stephan de Mandeville, Earl of Rosmar.   Since his two sons were illegitimate, his nephew, Geoffrey, was the Essex heir.   In Queen of the May, Lord Essex is now presented as Geoffrey's father, Geoffrey FitzPiers, Earl of Essex.   The book would have been more enjoyable if Cody had included the details that explained how she jumped from one Lord Essex to another.

Hated that the advent of Alexander's birth was considered incidental.   Was curious about the details of the relationship between Alexander's father and mother.   Rather than reveal any details about Alexander's childhood, Cody totally glossed over Alexander's illegitimacy by remarking that it was not as detrimental to his psyche as it had been to his brother Stephan's.   In fact, Alexander's mother was not even given a name, she was just a peasant in his father's past.   Alexander seemed to be very well-adjusted for being the illegitimate son of an Earl and a peasant.

As in the previous book of the trilogy, Cody spent a lot of time inserting her opinions regarding the great gulf between the commoners and nobles in the 13th century.   It was evident that Cody was trying to point out that people experienced the same dreams and desires and are honorable or not, whether they are born into entitlement and wealth or into poverty and servitude.   She managed this by placing the heroine, not only in the world of commoners, but also making her a member of a band of outlaws living in the Wolfhurst forest.

Thankfully, Cody explained (in a note at the end of the book) why she took creative license when she painted a different picture of the story of Robin Hood.   Giselle was trained to be a healer by the old woman, Maeve, who raised her.   Before Maeve died, she took Giselle to live with Robyn of Sherwood and his band of outlaws.   And even though Robyn's background was not any more developed than Alexander's childhood, it was difficult to perceive him as once being a member of the noble class.   But Cody did create the perception that -- in his own unique way -- Robyn was just as honorable a man as Alexander.

Giselle's best friend was Marian, the impulsive, tiny, arrow-shooting wife of Robyn.   Just as Robyn's past was not developed, neither was Marian's -- nor how she came to be the wife of an outlaw.   Even though they did not spend a great deal of time in the story, Marian and Robyn were wonderful, entertaining   additions to the book.

Another fascinating, but weakly developed character was the village priest, Father Michael.   Do not understand why Cody promoted interest in Father Michael by revealing details about him (like Alexander noticing that it was obvious he was of noble blood), and then leaving the reader totally in the dark about his background.   Father Michael is one of those secondary characters that just seems to stand out in a story.   He is intelligent, educated, honorable, and was a conduit not only between Robyn and the villagers, but also tied to Father Bernard, his predecessor, the senile herbalist at Blyth Abbey.

Alexander got to meet Giselle and her family of outlaws because he was accidentally shot by the arrow Giselle had set for a deer while he was returning home after killing the wolf.   Because Giselle had the kind, compassionate nature of a healer, she took the unconscious man back to her cave to tend to his wound.   Giselle, who has turned away from the interest of her fellow outlaw, John Little, finds herself totally fascinated by the well-made, handsome nobleman she is tending.

When Robyn confiscates Alexander's horse and clothing and sends him home, Giselle never expects to see him again.   Giselle, however, encounters Alexander at Guisborne Castle when she and Marian arrive to infiltrate the serving class in their efforts to find and free Alice of Barnsdale from Guy of Guisborne, who forced Alice to become his mistress.   (Alan of Barnsdale, a member of Robyn's band, loves Alice as much as she loves him.)

Giselle and Marian are not the only ones who want to help Alice.   Stephan, his wife, Julianna, and their children, Rose (eleven), William (nine), Jordana (five) and Isabel (baby) arrive at Wolfhurst to travel with Alexander to Guisborne Castle to participate in the tournament being held at Blyth.   Upon arrival at Guisborne, Stephan, Julianna and Alexander take the evil-hearted, harsh Guy of Guisborne into immediate dislike.   Alexander even steps forward to stop Guy from striking Alice.   The only reason his interference is tolerated is because Guy is obsequious to his higher ranking brother, Stephan.

One other surprising person is added to the cast of characters.   Julianna has invited her friend Elizabeth FitzWilliam, countess of Gloucester (newly divorced from King John) to join the family at the tournament.   Alexander has always considered Elizabeth a friend and even, surprisingly, suggests they marry.   Elizabeth, however, would like to remain friends with Alexander and would like his help to free the unhappy, mistreated Alice.

Elizabeth brings with her two more family members -- her constantly bickering niece and nephew -- Maud de Clare and her brother Gilbert.   (Remember Gilbert, Julianna's betrothed from book one.)   Cody spends a great deal of time developing the personalities of the characters to give them the same foibles and mannerisms as people of today's era.   Because of this effort to make the characters seem more real, and because Cody uses modernistic terms like "Coz," the book loses a lot of its medieval flavor.

Stephan, Alexander and Rose play instrumental roles in the action-filled and a tad-bit suspenseful scenes that result in Marian, Giselle and Alice's freedom from the clutches of Guy of Guisborne.   Alexander uses this opportunity to take possession of (claiming as a hostage) the beautiful, red-haired angel who tended his wounds.   Thus, Giselle finds herself living with Alexander and his noble family at Wolfhurst Castle.   As Giselle interacts with Alexander's large family, she learns that nobles experience the same feelings and fears as commoners.

And even though Giselle knows that Alexander cannot marry her and that she is setting herself up for a broken heart, she willingly becomes his mistress.   Found the love scenes that followed to be more emotional than sensual -- there was a decided lack of sizzle.   Naturally, this detracted from the total enjoyment of the book.

The suspense factor attributed to the book is not in trying to figure out Giselle's past -- Cody's hints were way too revealing to doubt that -- but in wondering how Cody is going to keep Alexander and Giselle alive before they put the pieces of the puzzle together.   It was also intriguing that Alexander turned to Robyn for help to mitigate the damages that Guy of Guisborne is inflicting on Wolfhurst.

Would readily recommend Queen of the May as an enjoyable read.   Would also recommend that the first book of the series, The Court of Love, be read beforehand.   Having read the first book understood {1} what all the whistling was about; {2} why Julianna was so comfortable and supportive of Giselle and her relationship with Alexander; and {3} why Stephan warned Alexander away from making Giselle his mistress.
--Vonda M. Reid   (Friday, April 6, 2012 : 2:05 a.m.)     [227]

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Books In The Series: The Mandeville Trilogy
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.08-1996The Court of LoveStephan de Mandeville, Earl of RosmarJulianna Devereux, Countess of Rosmar
02.06-1997Queen of the MayAlexander de Mandeville, Baron of WolfhurstGiselle / healer to Robyn of Sherwood's band
03.06-1998The Golden RoseAndrew Mandeville / knightCatherine Avery Stanley, Lady of Rosmar

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Queen of the May Quotations:
51. . . people had eyes to see only what they were accustomed to, and did not look for the unexpected.
55Happiness was fleeting, and not to be grudged another human.
57He'd not listened, any more than most young men listen to the voice of experience . . .
168Doing the right thing did not, however, mitigate the pain.   It seldom did.   That was why honor was so difficult . . .

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Characters Found In "Queen of the May"
Character Description / Relationships
Alexander de Mandeville,
Baron, lord of Wolfhurst
[Hero] (8) bastard born; hair so fair it was almost white; tall; fair; warrior (10) had been baron over a decade; first time in England since leaving on crusade with King Richard twelve years earlier (11) fear of forest a remnant of childhood experience (12) unmistakable arrogance to hard-planed face (19) hard, broad chest (23) scars cris-crossed his body (24) eyes blue as clear sky in June; beautiful; broad shoulders; deep chest from years of wielding a sword; narrow waist; narrow hips; long and strong of leg; fine lines around eyes; well made face; straight nose; high cheeks (25) dark brows and lashes; soft, clean hair (26) man of his word (38) some wealth (48) good man; kind; proud; strong; forceful (139) large, rough, warm hands (152) clear blue eyes; high, sharp cheeks (164) wide cheeks; sensual lips (179) tall; lean; long, strong legs; broad, muscled chest; gold hair matted on his chest; graceful as a cat (180) slow to anger (278)
Giselle[Heroine] (18) wary of horses (20) healing skills (22) fiery-haired angel (26) tall; strong; self-sufficient (27) Maeve brought her to Robyn 6-y-a (28) green eyes; purity; kindness (44) uncommon beauty (45) afraid of horses (153) 20-y-o (165) humor; tenderness; quiet dignity; calmness; peaceful (167) smooth, thick, curling red hair down to her thighs (169) selfish; lazy; too quick with her tongue (179) mixture of gentleness and wildness; calm and passion (182)
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Father Abbott[Brief Appearance] Blyth Abbey; tall man; sharp nose; dark eyes; gray brows; carefully neutral face (319)
Alan of Barnsdale[Secondary Character] member of Robyn's band; mischievous smile in dark face (29) Irish; played harp; handsome; smiling; in love with Alice (31)
Alice of Barnsdale[Secondary Character] Alan's love (31) small; very blond; huge gray eyes; pale face (70) beautiful; very young (73) fourteen; miserable; orphan (74)
Sir John of Barnsdale[No Appearance] Alice's father; a poor knight; no real family (74)
Father Bernard[Brief Appearances] priest at Wolfhurst for more than 30 years (141) Lady Giselle's tutor and household priest (150) at Blyth Abbey 20 years; herbalist (230)
William Braose[Brief Appearance] Stephan's knight; most handsome man Giselle even saw; black hair; face made exotic by strange upward tilt of pale eyes (252)
Brede[One Appearance] shepherd boy (276)
de Clareprolific clan; one of most powerful in England (67)
Aveline de Clare[No Appearance] married earl of Essex; Gilbert and Maud's aunt (93)
Gilbert de Clare[Secondary Character] once betrothed to Julianna; Elizabeth's nephew (87) pale blue eyes; tall; lean; powerful; young; healthy; strong; energetic; slightly younger than Geoffrey (94)
Maud de Clare[Secondary Character] Gilbert's sister (87) 13 or 14; tomboy-ish (90) argumentative; independent-minded; high-spirited (91) body and face of a woman; young; healthy; beautiful; substantial dowry (219)
Richard de Clare,
earl of Hertford
[No Appearance] brother to Geoffrey's step-mother (67)
Father Edgar[Brief Appearance] Blyth Abbey monk; brown eyes (150)
Geoffrey FitzPiers,
Earl of Essex
[No Appearance] Geoffrey's father (71) king's justiciar; one of most powerful men in England (72) (93) recently married Avelina de Clare (93)
Elizabeth FitzWilliam,
countess of Gloucester
[Secondary Character] Julianna's aunt; ill-used by husband, John, divorced after 11 years of marriage due to barrenness (85) sweet; gentle; shy; voice of angel; laughter to lift a man's soul; a lady in truest meaning of the word; charity flowed from her hands; genuine caring (86) small; delicate; "Beth"; confident; mature (88) John treated cruelly, never hit; faint lines around blue eyes; slim (92)
Gertrude[Brief Appearance] Wolfhurst maid; round cheeks red with sun; smile revealing crooked teeth (136)
Lady Giselle of Guisborne[No Appearance] same look as Giselle; red hair; dead more than 20 years (150)
Guy of Guisborne[Major Secondary Character] brutal; greedy lord; stole Alice to be his mistress (54) harsh man; high in king's favor (67) middle-aged; hard; lean; red hair beginning to turn white; rugged face (68) shrewd (72) bastard (150)
Hawyse from Finningley[Brief Appearance] worked in kitchen of Guisborne Castle; large woman; red face; grinning; ample behind (79) huge hands quick and graceful (80)
King John[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] Richard's brother; current ruler (11) taxed barons heavily; risking barons' land in France (66) corrupt; cruel; dishonorable; preference for men of like temperament (67)
John Little[Secondary Character] member of Robyn's band; beard; thick dark brows; big man (19) feelings for Giselle (20)
Maeve[No Appearance] old woman who had taught Giselle healing skills (25)
Eleanor de Mandeville [Secondary Character] Stephan, Julianna's daughter; died at five (47) died less than year ago (84)
Geoffrey de Mandeville[Secondary Character] Alexander's cousin (8) newly knighted; the de Mandeville dark hair; young; tall; angular; heir to the earldom of Essex (10) pale blue eyes; tall; lean; powerful; young; healthy; strong; energetic (94)
Isabel de Mandeville[Secondary Character] Stephan, Julianna's youngest daughter (46) less than year old (47)
Jordana de Mandeville[Secondary Character] Stephan, Julianna's daughter (47) 5-y-o (69)
Julianna de Mandeville[Major Secondary Character] [Heroine of Book 1] Stephan's wife (42) smelled of lavender (43) pretty green eyes (49) rode with easy grace and confidence (54) pregnant (84)
Rose de Mandeville[Secondary Character] Stephan, Julianna's 11-y-o daughter; eldest (47) pride; straight small shoulders (64) oval face (65)
Stephan de Mandeville,
Earl of Rosmar
[Major Secondary Character] [Hero of Book 1] Alexander's brother (42) methodical; logical; long legs (46) quiet; observant (56) illegitimate; eldest son (147) mother a Jew (232)
William de Mandeville[Secondary Character] Stephan, Julianna's son (47) second child; 9-y-o (64) skinny legs (75)
Marian[Secondary Character] Robyn's wife; newly pregnant (29) dark hair, cut to shoulders, bounced in curls around her face; dressed as man; pointed chin; small; dark (52) ideas and attention jumping from one thing to next (53) mercurial moods and wit (54) slitted eyes in cat face; bold (55) impulsive (111)
Odin[Secondary Character] (22) Giselle's huge, black, one-eyed dog (27) big, square head (29)
King Richard[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] dead three years (11)
Robyn of Sherwood[Major Secondary Character] lead band of outlaws that resided in woods of Nottingham; powerful shoulders (29) not bloodthirsty; pragmatic (30) long, lean body (129) sometimes called "Hood" (242) shrewd hazel eyes (279)
Brother Theobald[Brief Appearance] Blyth Abbey guest master; pudgy hands (134) bulky (136)
Michael Tuck[Secondary Character] village priest (40) neither corrupt nor venal; cared for his people (41) of noble birth; dark intelligent eyes; educated; vital link to villagers; wary; enigma (42) big man (197)
Sir John de Clare of Wolfhurst [No Appearance] Crusader; Giselle of Guisborne's husband (150)

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Queen of the May Reviews:
RatedPostedSiteNotes, Comments, Etc.
4.0010-....-2002A Romance Review 
4.34 average{3 reviews}Amazonas of: May 23, 2012
4.00 average{1 review}Barnes and Nobleas of: May 23, 2012 (mine)
----Fantastic FictionList of Books
----Fiction DBList of Books
----Genrefluent Books of the Weekvery positive inflection
4.00 average{1 review}Good Readsas of: May 23, 2012 (mine)
4.00 average{3 ratings}Library Thingas of: May 23, 2012 (mine)
3.50 average{3 reviews}Paperback Swapas of: May 23, 2012
3.50 average{2 reviews}Shelfarias of: May 23, 2012
5.0004-21-1997The Romance Readerliked
3.9005-23-2012Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, B&N, fdb, GR, LT, 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 Queen of the May review link to table, just ask

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