Date of release: 24th June 2014
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ARC provided by Harlequin via Netgalley for an honest review <3
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A Sword upon the rose was a pleasant read and surprise. Mainly due to the fact that most HQ historical novels hardly focus on the period itself, Joyce’s newest story has everything typical of a medieval romance: war, politics and love.
The main character was most of the times pleasant and reminded me a lot of Anya Seton’s protagonists: strong, independent, victims of the period and yet controlling everything and manipulating to achieve their ends. Alana certainly swings between the acceptance of her father and loyalty to the only man who loved her (even if he is the enemy). The entire novel is written using the 3rd person however we only have Alana’s point of view which sometimes caused some distress, being almost blind to Ian ‘s feelings and opinions. He is an alpha male. He demands obedience and Alana does not bow. She does what she thinks it is right even knowing that it will anger him. Ian seems rude sometimes and their love might not be romantic, however being a medieval romance I personally think it turned out quite well (I mean I was almost wishing that Ian would die so we could have some medieval epic vibe… but this is Harlequin romance, I think the readers would hate the author if she murdered Ian).
Godfrey was another pleasant surprise. You cannot help to despise him at the beginning and for a while you believe that he is the main antagonist, but in the course of the story he changes so much that I would love to read a novel where he would be the main character. He forces Alana to have visions but only because he fears the ire of his father and when Alana is in danger or lost he helps her proving to be a great ally. I was not a big fan of the word “friend” used as today’s friend. It may be just in Portuguese language but friends meant lovers in Portuguese medieval context so it was always weird when Alana said: you are my friend. But maybe in English it was different at the time. Also I always thought that family in medieval times were not so important as today, however as a bastard I guess that Alana’s obsession with being accepted by her father is, somehow, justified. In that field, I believe that George R. R. Martin captures perfectly the essence of medieval families.
As for the plot itself it is action packed with great descriptions of battles and politics especially the use of manipulation. Alana’s visions were a great way to create expectation. If a character appears dead, we will want to know when and how in the story and not many authors can pull that out.
The only thing I would eventually change was Alana’s fears for Ian’s love. Even though it is clear that he is in battle, she feels insecure sometimes and tends to repeat her thoughts which can be tiresome for a character that has showed us she could manipulate and get what she wants.
A sword upon the rose mixes some medieval themes in a delicious cocktail of love and war with strong characters without sacrificing the authentic of its period.