A Royal Affair by John Wiltshire
Interesting Story line, colourful characters, and intriguing setting.
Doctor Nikolai Hartmann represents himself as a learned man of science who believes wholly in the rational and scientific above all else. In reality, he is a man haunted by an unusual past and running from his own nature. While the Reformation transforms much of Europe, it has yet to touch Hesse-Davia; this is a land mired in superstition with cruel punishments for crimes such as witchcraft and sodomy.
While traveling to the dying king’s bedside to offer his medical expertise, Nikolai is set upon by a bandit. Reaching the king’s ancient stronghold, he discovers his mysterious brigand is the beautiful, arrogant Prince Aleksey. Aleksey is everything Nikolai is not: unguarded, passionate and willful. Despite their differences, Nikolai feels an irresistible desire for the young royal that keeps him in Aleksey’s thrall.
But Hesse-Davia is a dangerous world for a newly crowned king who wants to reform his country—and for the man who loves him.
Review by Gerry Burnie
I had difficulty deciding on what book to read this week. All the titles seemed remarkably the same, and so I finally decided on one with a hum-drum title but an interesting time and setting. A Royal Affair by John Wiltshire [Dreamspinner Press, September 2014] is set in a remote kingdom during the Reformation, with all the mix of intrigue and enlightenment that involved.
The main character, Nikolai Hartmann, is a man of science. In addition he has travelled extensively, adding to his reputation as a doctor, and so he is summoned to tend the monarch of a tiny kingdom in Mediaeval.
It is here he meets the precocious twenty-three-year-old crown prince, Aleksey. At this point Nikolai is 37, and so there is the usual conflict of ages and outlooks between them.
The banter that arises from this is quite delightful, as they thrust and parry their way into each other’s hearts – love arises out of conflict in a most natural and masculine way.
The real angst arises when the old king dies and Aleksey assumes the throne. Not surprisingly he is a young turk intent on reform, but Hesse-Davia has be isolated for centuries, with deep-rooted superstitions, phobias (particularly against sodomy), and intrigue. Therefore, the task for Aleksey, and now Nikolai, promises to be a difficult one.
This is a well-written book, with colourful characters and an interesting story line that holds the attention with clever bits of business. However, for me, the language was a bit modern, and the continuity of thought wavered from one part to another. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable read, and well worth the money. Four bees.
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