Rightfully His, by Tracy Grant

>> Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Tracy Grant wrote one of the only three books I gave A+ grades to last year, the wonderful Daughter of the Game (the other two were Gaudy Night, by Dorothy L. Sayers and one which has been a favourite for years, Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels). Whenever I find an author who can write such a great book, I immediately go looking for her backlist! The first one I got was Rightfully His (excerpt).

Francis Storbridge was once her best friend--though he had always wished for more. But Charlotte de Ribard sent him away, accusing him of collaborating in her blackguard father's most terrible crime. Now, years later, Frank is a member of Parliament and Charlotte's only hope to save her family from disgrace. In desperation, she appeals to the man she has tried to hate, prepared to risk anything--except her heart and the passion she'd buried so long ago.

To Frank's astonishment, Charlotte says yes--to a marriage of convenience. She will be his wife in name only, mother to his orphaned family. Suddenly everything he has always wanted is within his reach, yet beyond his grasp. Now it is his turn to earn her trust by honoring their bargain and protecting her from her powerful, ruthless father. Only then can he tempt her to the sweetest abandon of all, the kind only love can bring...
Oh, what an amazing book! Grant is an excellent plotter and I really liked the romance, too. Rightfully His was not as perfect as Daughter of the Game, but it was still an A-.

The book has the protagonists join forces against a common enemy, by entering into a marriage of convenience. Francis has always been in love with Charlotte, while she distrusts him because of some events in the past. The proximity of marriage and their work together to defeat Charlotte's father worked to slowly bring them together, and this was a joy to read.

Frank was my favourite type of hero, a kind, honourable person, who is remarkably tolerant of other people's weaknesses. He was wonderfully idealistic and yet pragmatic and realistic, and I loved the way he was with Charlotte. Charlotte was a nice character in her own right, intelligent and strong. I liked her, but I think I kept comparing her with Mélanie, from DOTG, and Charlotte definitely lost in the comparison.

The plotting and political intrigue was fascinating, and I liked that Daniel de Ribard was a villain with some subtlety and who was well-drawn and very definitely not over-the-top villainous.

As in Daughter of the Game, Grant makes the political intrigues and issues of the time intrinsecal to the plot. History is very definitely not wallpaper in her books, and she manages to integrate it wonderfully into the story. I was tickled to see that this was the second book I read in a couple of weeks which uses Castlereagh's suicide as a possible consequence of its villain's manouvering (the other one was Madeline Hunter's The Saint).

Something else I found interesting was that the book actually acknowledges the existence of South America at that time. I can't emphasize enough how rare that is. Even the historical romances with more history in them are tremendously centered on the events in England and often the US. Sometimes events in Continental Europe or the Caribbean colonies intrude, but South America? Almost never. Here, not only is there a character who's been married to a Brazilian nobleman, but there's a mention of event in Peru, with a character who pretends to be a Peruvian count trying to get Britain to acknowledge his country's independence from Spain. That rang very true, since I know Britain at that time was very involved diplomatically in things like this in South America. Right about then, the country was even intervening in the negotiations that made Uruguay an independent country, and there's actually a mention or two of real-life politicians who participated in that process.

I'm looking forward to reading the previous books related to this one (Shores of Desire and Shadows of the Heart). Both people and events from these books play important roles in this one; their appearances are not simply pointless visits to allow readers to catch up with them. Grant gives enough info here to allow Rightfully His to stand alone just fine, while tempting the reader to read those books (she does give quite a bit of the plot of those two away, though).


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