Author: Eve Edwards
Genre: Historical, Young Adult
Published: 1st July 2010 (Razorbill)
It's 1582 and eighteen-year-old Will Lacey's family is in trouble. After years of wasteful spending, his late father has run Lacey Hall to near ruin. Tasked with marrying his family back into fortune, the new Earl of Dorset is all set for a season at court to woo not just the Queen but potential brides with his jousting skills. But when Ellie – a strong-willed girl with nothing to her name but a worthless Spanish title – catches Will's eye, he faces a bigger battle than he could ever have anticipated.
William Lacey is the new Earl of Dorset. Left with a title but not the fortune, Will must make amends for his father's mistakes if his family is to regain their status. His only means to do so is to attend court and find wife with a hefty dowry.
Ellie Hutton is the daughter of an alchemist who spends every penny on his studies. Despite officially being Lady Eleanor Rodriguez of San Jaime, a title inherited from her late mother, Ellie is more akin to living in barns than wearing fancy dresses.
Circumstances leads them both to the court of Queen Elizabeth I and despite a harsh meeting in their younger days, Ellie and Will find themselves attracted to each other. However, both know it is impossible for them to be matched as Ellie is far from the rich wife Will needs.
The author does a great job of setting the scenes in this book, with just the right amount of description to make you feel like you're there without going to far. The plot is largely character based, focusing on the relationships between the characters.
I really loved the characters in this book. Ellie is a fiesty, spirited sixteen-year-old who's had to deal with a lot in her life. She's been exposed to all walks of life and is equally able to be friends with the village girls as she is the ladies of the Queen's court. Ellie's intelligent and educated in a time when this wasn't the norm for women, although Ellie hopes to impress the queen, who appreciates learning, with her Latin translation. It was easy to like Ellie right from the start of the book, her difficult relationship with her father bringing the reader straight on her side.
At the start William is seen as cold and arrogant, largely due to his opinion of Ellie's father but as the story continues it is makes sense why he's like this and as we get to know him more he's really quite endearing. As the eldest son and new earl, he's had his life dictated to him and there's much he has to do to ensure his family regains their fortune which will allow his younger brothers to have a good education and a decent dowry for his younger sister. He has a lot of responsibility placed on his shoulders for an eighteen-year-old and he mostly handles it well. He has two aspects to his personality: The Earl of Dorset is almost like a character he puts on; strong and noble. Will himself - when he's with his family and friends - is the likeable side of him.This is when he's funny and sweet and, at times, nervous and scared (in an adorable dorky kind of way).
There's a good set of supporting characters as well. The younger Lacey boys, James and Tobias, provide a fun element to any situation with their brotherly banter. Lady Jane Perceval, daughter of the Earl of Wetherby, is both rival and friend to Ellie whilst her brother, Sir Henry, is a bit of a bad guy - taking advantage of the ladies (and their maids) and basically doing whatever suits him.
With an interesting plot and great characters, this book is bound to keep any historical fiction fan hooked and it is well deserving of its comparison with any Philippa Gregory novel.