Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Heirs and Spares by J L Spohr

[From author's website :Visit J L Spohr on the web ]

Heirs and Spares is a book that never would’ve been on my radar if Hillary hadn’t mentioned it and I would’ve been sad because this book filled me with giddy joy.  It’s very much a tale of medieval political intrigue but while historically perfect is set in a completely fictional time replete of any recognizable figures. Thus, Spohr can play with her elaborate puppet show and she does: with a wink and a smile.

Oddly, it kind of creates an entirely new genre. There are thematic elements and the playing of scripture and religion and higher power which put one in mind of a Christian fiction novel ---and yet, there are gloriously lustily sequences which more than hint that the characters are involved in *ahem* fun exertions.   Spohr is an ordained minister and her knowledge of the Bible and of religion in past times is quite apparent here and infused intelligently. 

The sheer joy of this book is the personality effused on every page.  Spohr LOVES writing these people, they are her dearest friends and their gorgeous, opulent castle life is like her Barbie Dream Doll house and we, lucky readers, get a front row seat in the action of a brilliantly imaginative mind .

King William needs a queen and there’s a shortlist of gorgeous maidens; but he settles on the smart and spunky Annelore who is one of the most believable heroines in recent fiction I have read. Vulnerable and strong, Annelore is afeared of her sudden power as much as she is skeptical of a king she believes to be a brute.  Their matrimony is met with great excitement by the kingdom but with believable reticence on the part of both Annelore and Wills.   Perhaps the most perfectly executed scene ( believe me there are many contenders ) occurs just after the marriage ceremony as Wills and Annelore greet the commoners and Wills presents his wife for the first time. Annelore bows to the multitudes in a completely unprecedented and certainly unnecessary act: humbly winning their love without the slightest hint of conniving.

Their love is a slow-blooming one grounded in friendship first and foremost: a marriage of equal minds and sparkly banter that transcends the usual swooning and flirting of books of this ilk.   Realistically, Annelore---having often acted as a midwife in her home village---is mortified of childbirth and thus very hesitant to perform her wifely duties. There is something so soft and vulnerable and sweet about these early scenes: William knowing that conjugal duty and consummation is expected of a kingdom in need of an heir, but pressed to ensure that he is treating Annelore as a lady and Annelore wanting to do her utmost yet understandably shy knowing the high mortality rate of women who made it to the end stage of pregnancy.

I also genuinely enjoyed the relationship between Annelore and her father: who is saddened to lose a daughter whose mind he respects and whose character he treasures even as he knows she will do himself and her mother’s memory proud with her royal duties.

There are whispers of treason and the often unsavoury appearance of Annelore’s childhood flame; but they are just threads to add to the tapestry as a whole.  This is a story focused on the burgeoning relationship of two monarchs fumbling their way toward their magnanimous destiny while realistically and normally confronting each and every circumstance as one would expect two young people new to the job.

Wills does well at respecting Annelore’s opinion: immediately regarding her as an equal and finding himself attracted to her character more than he was attracted to some of the –erm—more physical charms of Annelore’s early competitors for crown.

I am so eager to dive into this world again and hang out with Wills and Annelore: they are friends --- book friends--- the best kind of friends 


"Think nothing of it, your Grace, the king said, "A lady who speaks her mind is one to be admired, is she not?"

"After a month of flattering fathers and fluttering eyelashes, William and his men reached Duven, the last duchy on their tour."

"She gave a laugh like a dove and blushed. Adorable."

"Acid burned Anna's stomach. Being bowed to, even by her father, was just one of the horrid things she'd never get used to."

"Beaubourg is no proper place for a girl of your mind, Anna. Love in a marriage you may not find, but you will find a whole world of ideas and knowledge..."

"Let him slay marauders in the woods and write laments to the stars for all we care."

"Then a smile, small and beatific like a Madonna's in an icon, played across her face. And he knew no matter what happened between them, he would remember this moment. The moment he watched a terrified girl become a queen."

"Oh-ho, so 'twas not merely my good teeth that brought you back?

"And where might we find that in the Scriptures?"
"The Lord has appeared to all number of people in dreams," William jumped back on the bed and rolled to her side. "And I do believe there was wrestling involved, at least once."
She looked down at him: "The wrestling you speak of and the wrestling of Jacob aren't quite the same thing."

"What did this all mean? Why did she feel as though some vital internal organ had left her body when those doors closed after him?"

"he tool hold of her hand. Her entire body responded as if he'd kissed her."

"Indeed my dear, that little head of yours does a mite bit more than look pretty."

"William the Just, am I?"
She threw up her hands: "I don't know what they call ye, William--- I made it up. 'Tis beside the point."

He grabbed her dour face and covered it with kisses. "Ah my darling wife, how glad you've made me."
"If calling you an ass gives you joy, I've a few other words I might share."

"You're the only person who's ever caused me to quake in their presence," he said, "That includes when my brother wanted me dead." He went to his knees in front of her, taking hold of her hands. "You have the power to completely unhinge me. I hate that."

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