Bound to him against her will…
Lord Wolf, hardened soldier and skillful lover, has come to King Henry VIII’s court to claim his new bride: a girl who has intrigued him since he first saw her riding across the Yorkshire moors.
Eloise Tyrell, now lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne Boleyn, has other ideas. She has no desire to submit to a man she barely knows and who – though she is loath to admit it – frightens her not a little.
Then comes that first kiss…
It awakens in both a fierce desire that bares them to the soul. But as the court erupts into scandal around the ill-fated Queen, Eloise sees first-hand what happens when powerful men tire of their wives.
Dare she surrender her body and her heart?
Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, May 2015
Time and Setting: 1536, the Tudor court, London and Yorkshire
Genre: Erotic historical romance
Heat Level: 3
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
Earlier this year, I read Alison Weir’s excellently written The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn. This is a perfect fictional complement to that book. Though Boleyn is not the heroine of this story, the political machinations of her speedy path to execution are constantly in the background of this tautly written novel, and the effects of the politics in the Tudor court reach out all across England, even when the hero and heroine are in far off Yorkshire. Duty, obedience, and honor are of utmost importance to King Henry VIII and, as a soldier, Lord Wolf is constantly at the king’s beck and call. But his good standing with the king must never be taken for granted, especially since his wife, Eloise, is one of Queen Anne Boleyn’s ladies-in-waiting.
This highly charged and erotic historical romance is a departure from my usual Regency era fare. But as a history buff, I appreciate Ms. Moss’s engaging writing style, the vivid and well-drawn characters, and the richly portrayed historical setting of Tudor England.
Eloise Tyrell is a pretty young woman from the Yorkshire countryside in the delicate and enviable position of maid to a queen. She covertly observes Queen Anne’s scandalous flirtations with men in the animated and free love atmosphere of the court, but is smart enough to realize she must also ignore what she sees.
Eloise also enjoys a youthful infatuation with Simon, the youngest son of a baron, but quickly becomes disillusioned when he shockingly suggests they become lovers after her arranged marriage with Lord Wolf, a childhood acquaintance; after all, it is the usual behavior at court. This is something Eloise cannot condone and, when Lord Wolf boldly claims her for his own in a breathless and seductive first meeting, Eloise is startled, cautious but curious, and promises him complete fidelity. It irks her that Wolf distrusts her, however.
“Now that she was promised to Lord Wolf, it was no longer acceptable for her to speak so freely with other men, however innocent her intentions.”
Be forewarned that the sex in this book is extremely graphic, but it’s also very smoothly written and enjoyable to read. The loose sexual and moral atmosphere of the Tudor court is acceptable and rampant, much like the court of Charles II depicted in Nina Mason’s Devil in Duke’s Clothing. For example, if the king desires another man’s wife in his bed, that man will comply or be liable for the consequences and eventual disfavor and exile.
After their hasty marriage, Eloise and Wolf enjoy a vigorous and adventurous sex life, yet both are unsure of the other’s true feelings. As an arranged marriage, neither expects to feel such an intense attraction or need for one another, but it is undeniable. A woman is her husband’s property, free to use and dispose of at will – witness King Henry’s treatment of his own wives – so Eloise walks a fine line between satisfying her husband yet not losing parts of herself.
“She must learn to be cold, to separate her heart from the clamoring desires of her body. Just as Wolf did.”
Wolf is a strong and bold hero, both physically and emotionally, a brave and fearless soldier who has the king’s ear, and who introduces Eloise to the far edges of sensual pleasures, much to her fear, surprise, and delight. With each lusty encounter, their love grows ever stronger but each holds heartbreak from their pasts and jealousy must be overcome. Moreover, Wolf secretly admires and reveres Eloise’s spirit, as it intrigues and fascinates him, as revealed in his conversation with Hugh Beaufort, the king’s clerk:
“I must bring Eloise to acknowledge me as her lord and master, your are right there. But I shall not do so at the expense of her spirit. A broken wife is no wife at all, but a poor drudge.”
Lord Wolf is also a keen diplomat and smartly maneuvers ways to turn the king’s eyes far from Eloise to keep her safe…and for himself alone, though he must display flagrant and unsavory behavior to achieve his aims. Their growing love and trust is real and believable and I really like how the author displays their personal vulnerabilities. Against his initial intentions, Wolf comes to love Eloise, something he vowed he’d never do after a past relationship gone sour.
“His pride had been wounded, his already sore heart broken. And he had sworn never to love again, for love was just a mask that hid a man’s baser needs.”
Ms. Moss writes with skill, keeping the excitement and suspense ratcheted at a high point to the very end. When Eloise and Wolf are summoned from their newly wedded state back to London so that Eloise can provide testimony regarding Queen Anne’s fate, they are thrust into a dark and scary world of deceit, terror, and injustice. Spies are everywhere, privacy is rare, and a promiscuous court surrounds them. How they maintain their control and sanity makes for an intense read.
To say there is a lot of history here is an understatement as it infuses every single page. For example, Ms. Moss observes the absence of wearing undergarments and the reasons behind it, Latin phrases, period appropriate vocabulary for everyday objects – trencher for plate, for example – fashions, real life historic figures, and the dark and cold corridors of the royal palace.
Eloise’s younger and equally strong-willed sister, Susannah, is the heroine of the second book in the blatantly named Lust in the Tudor Court series. I will definitely be reading the rest of this series as well as more by Elizabeth Moss.
A must read for all Tudor-philes and erotic romance fans alike. Highly, highly recommended.