Rook and Raven by Julie Harvey Delcourt

rook raven

What do a profligate Earl, an immortal and evil Viking priest and an ancient prophecy all have in common? The beautiful young actress Jessamy Powers. A woman with a dark secret and possibly the key to an endangered kingdom’s rise or fall.

A kingdom in the mists is more than just a myth and London is about to find itself at the epicenter of mystery, terror, romance and the revelation that legendary figures still exist. Immortal evil is as determined to destroy as immortal guardians are to protect a great legacy and a great love.

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Publisher and Release Date: Julie Harvey Delcourt, February 2014

RHR Classifications: Regency England, Celtic, Fantasy, Arthurian lore
Time and Setting: London, Celtica/Avalon
Genre: Historical Romance; Fantasy
Heat Level: 3
Reviewer Rating: 3 Stars

Review by Natalie

If you are looking for a fantasy-filled, mythical book about King Arthur, Vikings and a beautiful actress set in Regency England – then look no further! Rook and Raven is your ticket to just such a magical world, because Julie Harvey Delcourt has created a story that melds together the mythical island of Avalon, evil Viking priests and the strictly regulated society of the ton.

When Jessamy Powers was jilted 7 years previously by the love of her life, Sebastian St. Just, Earl of Redsayle, she didn’t think she could find the strength to go on. After years spent pining for him and hearing sorted tales about his lascivious lifestyle, Jessamy has moved on with the help of close and fiercely loyal friends. As a sought-after actress, she performs to sold out audiences and hob-nobs with the best of London society.

Sebastian has returned from his exile to his mother’s home country. He has played the part of cad and man-about-town for years only as a cover; his real purpose is to act as an agent of a fallen king and assassin. His return to London society marks the start of new coup, one that will hopefully return the true King of Celtica to his throne.
But before Sebastian can embark on his journey he finds himself face to face with a woman he has never forgotten.

As Jessamy and Sebastian struggle to tame their emotions, a dark world rises around them and while Sebastian resists bringing Jessamy into his new life in fear of her safety he realizes she may already be involved and in danger.

Rook and Raven is the first instalment in the author’s Celtic Kingdom series; a blend of historical romance, fantasy and Arthurian lore. Jessamy and Sebastian are two very promising characters, as long as Ms Delcourt can keep them from continually falling into the same tired and true lovers’ dilemmas over the next two books, such as keeping secrets from each other in an erroneous attempt to ensure their safety. Jessamy is a strong heroine who may or may not come from a line of strong and powerful women, while Sebastian is breaking the mold of his Viking heritage to be with her. Almost as important is the cast of supporting characters: their childhood friend and Sebastian’ rival for Jessamy’s affections, David; King Conal, who is fighting to return his family to the throne; Bishop, a spy and mentor to Sebastian; Birdie, Jessamy’s childhood nanny who has followed and protected her and knows more about the truth of Jessamy’s past than she lets on. Each character comes with their own baggage and back story, leaving the reader thirsty to know more.

There is also a darker presence in the book in the form of a religious order of ancient Vikings who have waited a millennia to gain control over the ancient, magical kingdom of Celtica. Now that they have it they will stop at nothing to eradicate the original inhabitants of the island and steal their magic for themselves.

Rook and Raven contains some darker, sinister plot twists that will leave the reader uncomfortable at times. Several scenes include violence, both in regular and magical form, but there also is a handful of intimate scenes involving unknown characters which I suspect may ultimately reveal unpleasant secrets. These scenes in particular can be difficult to read knowing where the author is likely taking the story. The plot and character of the Celtic Kingdom series shows real promise but Ms Delcourt’s writing could have used a little help from an editor. Parts of the story sometimes felt like a grab bag of genres; having fantasy, Arthurian legend, Celtic magic, Vikings, religious fanaticism, Regency England and historical romance all in one book can feel like too many cooks in the kitchen.

At times, I found myself unsure as to whose voice I was reading, and in addition, the names and places can get a little confusing, especially in reference to the flashbacks and memories of supporting characters. Similarities also exist between the story lines in Rook and Raven and other recent fantasy series; the reader will easily see which authors have influenced the author. But even so this is a strong first in a promising series and makes me want to watch for more books from Julie Harvey Delcourt.

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