Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review- Her Majesty's Maiden by Michelle Houston

Her Majesty’s Maiden
by Michelle Houston
October, 2010
12.3 K words
Ebook- Phaze Publishing

Buy it Phaze

When Margaret Dudley joined the ranks of Queen Elizabeth I as a gentlewomen, she never expected the whirlwind of changes that occurred in her life.

Expecting to retreat to the background, to serve her sovereign with integrity and devotion, she never dreamed she’d find herself embroiled in a world of jealousy, lust, and betrayal.

Or that she would experience a love that surpasses all.

OK, I’m going to say it. The first book that I read of Ms. Houston’s didn’t leave me with a great impression. I have bought other books of hers that I haven’t read yet since then. But this book in particular attracted me because it’s really rare to find a f/f historical. So I bought it and unlike the others, didn’t leave it on my shelf to read at a later date.

What a nice little story this was! It’s got all the elements to make it not only erotic, but fun to read. Like a typical fairytale story with greed, passion, and evil doings. Although it’s a short story, it was written with no big gaping holes or areas left untouched with a nice flow in the story telling.

Margaret was born illegitimate. Having no prospects for marriage due to this, she ends up as one of the queen’s ladies to serve her in her private quarters. As soon as she sees the queen in person, she’s enthralled by her. As the days wear on, serving her, she finds herself feeling something she can’t explain for the queen.

Queen Elizabeth takes Margaret under her wing straight away. It’s pretty clear in this story that Queen Elizabeth has been having lesbian trysts with some of her other ladies and it’s pretty clear that she has more than special feelings for Margaret.

Of course, there is evil lurking in the wings as the other ladies have found their favor displaced by the Queen’s affection for Margaret and back stabbing events go on, which throws a wrench in Margaret’s life as the queen’s favorite and maybe even her status as a free being.

I can’t speak to the historical accuracy of this story. I’m not talking about actual people or events, the author does write a disclaimer that she took a lot of liberties with facts. I’m talking about the language used, whether or not ladies to the queen were set up to be married while in service to the queen or the status of illegitimate children of the upper crust. I don’t know much about these things, so if you do, this is something that might push your buttons or not.

Strictly from a visceral experience, I thought the characters came to life in a real way. Queen Elizabeth is somehow how I’d imagine someone of her status would be. She’s commanding, she’s soft but dominating with Margaret and acts on her basest of emotions at times flying into a rage at any perceived slight. She’s really smitten by Margaret and that comes through. She’s also extremely jealous and thinks that everyone will fall in love with Margaret.

“Breathlessly, she waited for the order to leave the royal bed, and found herself instead curled up against Elizabeth’s side. “Oh, my darling, I know that I frightened you, but you pleased me so well tonight. Libby, precious Libby, I want to drape you in diamonds and emeralds and have you parade naked everywhere we go so that I can watch the envious eyes follow us, knowing that they can never have you. Yet, I find I cannot bear the thought of anyone else’s eyes on you but mine. Even my beloved Kat, who is as a mother to me, I want to blind her for having seen the beauty of your mons.”

Margaret is the type to know what she wants and doesn’t think twice about how she acts. She’s madly in love with the queen, but not just in a lustful way. She just adores her and is willing to be her servant, both in the real way and sexually. She has no desire to look anywhere else or to explore the fact that as a lady of the queen, she will be set up for marriage.

The interactions between the two are sweet and hot at the same time. I’m rather fond of stories in which both parties feel an intense passion for each other and this comes through in this story. I can't help it, I'm a bit of a sucker for that type of love in books, one in which deep loyalty is part of the passion even if it borders on obsessive.

The dynamics do change with them over time and Margaret takes more liberties in controlling the relationship. So it’s not all the older/younger power dynamic. This is an HEA story. Not just an erotic dalliance for the Queen or Margaret, which I liked.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a conflict in a love story caused by evil manipulations of an outside person so that was actually refreshing for a change.

Bottom line, I enjoyed this book. It left me feeling good and like I was fully entertained, which is what I want in a book.

Heat level: 5- graphic sex, strap-on.

Grade: B+

Edited: So I put in the original review that some readers might be squicked by the age difference between the Queen and Margaret. For some reason I had it in my head that Margaret was only 14, but she was actually 19 when she went to work in the court. Apologies to the author for that mistake. I've revised my review taking out that part.


M. A. said...

The only thing I can think of that might squick some readers out is that Queen Elizabeth is in her 40’s in the story, while Margaret is just 14. I think this wasn’t such a big deal back in those days as it is mentioned that 14 is the marriageable age. But I wasn’t bothered about it. On personal level, I do like reading an older character once in a while.

In terms of historical accuracy, I don't take offense to these kinds of age issues. Before romance literature got so P.C. and sanitized, Beatrice Small wrote a lot of Medieval and Renaissance stories where the heroines were married at age 15 or 16.

Thanks for reviewing this. I've been on the fence about this story, but I might read it after hearing your review. : )

M. A. said...

Oh! Good news! No squickiness! Margaret is 19 when she begins service in the Queen's household.

From the excerpt:

[Margaret] had been acting as lady’s maid the last five years for her stepmother, ever since she had reached the marriageable age of fourteen.

If Margaret began service for her stepmother at age fourteen and worked five years, she's 19 when our story begins. Hurrah! Out with the squick factor. : )

Cathy in AK said...

I'm not sure if I'll get this one, but removing the age factor certainly helps. I'm all for historical accuracy, and in that context might be okay with it. Maybe. Having an almost 14 y.o. daughter probably influences my thinking in these situations : )

LVLM(Leah) said...

M.A. that's too funny. I went back and checked about her age because I forget little details like this. I did know she was way younger since the queen's graying hair is mentioned often, so you get a good visual on a much older women.

Anyway... I wasn't bothered by the age thing. I think some readers on this level read history through current eyes and mainly on a visceral level that might affect them even if they can mentally agree it was acceptable back then.

I mean, I know that they didn't bathe that much back then and that probably normal body smells that gross us out now were normal, but when I read historicals, especially m/m and buggaring, or oral sex in m/f, I get grossed out, knowing that they probably didn't bathe for weeks. LOL

LVLM(Leah) said...

I think I'll have to revise my review in case it's an issue for people.

Yeah, Cathy, I can see where that would come in to play. heh.

You know I was 19 when I had a long term relationship with a 42 year old man. We had a great relationship.
And when I was 34 I had a long term relationship with a 20 yr. old. He's still a good friend and we write often. He and his current wife have visited me. So I'm not so judging about this kind of thing.

There is a big difference though between 14 and 19 though.

M. A. said...

I admit, I've got a HUGE "softspot" for May/December romances. I like seeing the social and emotional "bridges" connecting generational gaps. It can make for nice, low-key conflict in a romance, too.

LVLM(Leah) said...

Mia- well, IRL, May/Dec relationships start out with a older/younger power dynamic, which is not that interesting in and of itself. Let's face it, when you see an older dude with a younger chick on his arms, it's not that interesting. And with cougars becoming popular, the older female with younger guy isn't that interesting either these days.

However, from personal experience and from what I've seen in others, quite often that power shifts from the older to the younger person, with the older one becoming the vulnerable, needy one and the younger standing their ground.

This is a nice conflict as the older one either fights it to keep control, or they acquiesce as the younger one starts controlling the relationship.

There's room for character growth on both sides, which I like.

And, well, I'm an older woman. I like to read stories once in a while with an older character.

Cathy in AK said...

There is a big difference though between 14 and 19 though.

You're telling me :P