Sunday, May 13, 2012

Review: The Last Heiress

Title: The Last Heiress
Author: Bertrice Small
Genre: Historical Romance
Format: paperback
Published: 2005
Rating: 3/5

Elizabeth Meredith, the youngest daughter of Rosamund Bolton, is nothing like her sensible sisters. Impatient with fancy manners and careful speech, the young beauty has shunned the royal court in favor of a quiet life at Friarsgate. That is, until she learns that in order to protect the future of the land she loves, she must venture into the court of King Henry VIII to find a suitable husband. Elizabeth quickly scandalizes the royal court by forging a friendship with the king's friend Anne Boleyn and by indulging in a delicious flirtation with Flynn Stewart, a bastard brother of King James V of Scotland. But her real future lies back at Friarsgate, where her admitted weakness for Scots sends her into the strong arms of Baen MacColl. Yet Elizabeth's greatest passion is for her lands; and Baen MacColl's loyalties may lie elsewhere. Can Elizabeth and Baen overcome the barriers that threaten to separate them? And can Elizabeth, by following the calling of her heart, still protect Friarsgate?

This book, the fourth and final of the Friarsgate Inheritance series begins with Elizabeth as a young woman in her twenties who has been the Lady of Friarsgate since she was 14 managing her land and sheep with the help of her steward Edmund Bolton and a variety of servants. For the future of the property it is necessary for there to be heirs to pass down Friarsgate to when Elizabeth can no longer care for it, however Elizabeth would gladly never marry as she is very independent and her first love has always been Friarsgate, which was passed down to her by her mother after her elder sister refused to take on the responsibility of it.

Setting: The characters of this book travel back and forth from Friarsgate in Cumbria on the border of Engand and Scotland, Claven's Carn in Scotland near the border, Greyhaven in the Scottish Highlands, King Henry VIII's court at Greenwich and London, England, and several mansions owned by Elizabeth's uncle also in England. Everything takes place between the winter of 1530 and June 1536 during the reign of King Henry VIII specifically during the time he was still married but no longer with Katherine of Aragon to the end of his time with Anne Boleyn.

Characters: There are so many characters either directly included or just mentioned that I lost count. The main character however is Elizabeth the daughter of Rosamund Bolton (previous Lady of Friarsgate) and the late Owein Meredith (a welsh countryman turned knight of King James IV). Elizabeth has two elder sisters Philippa (now Countess of Witten) and Banon, and with her mother's second marriage to Laird Logan Hepburn she now has four younger half brothers; James, Tavis, Edmund, and Alexander, and one stepbrother John from Logan's first marriage. While still at Friarsgate she meets Baen MacColl, the Scottish bastard son of the Colin Hay (Lord of Greyhaven), and Tora Gunn who has come to purchase some of Friarsgate's well known sheep. In order to find a husband for Elizabeth she goes to King Henry VIII's court with her uncle Thomas Bolton (Lord Cambridge) where she meets the King, his mistress Anne Boleyn and Flynn Stewart the half-brother and messenger of Scotland's King James V.

Age Recommendation: Due to some explicit sexually graphic content, I would recommend this book first and foremost to adults but could also be read by some mature young adults.

Overall, I enjoyed this book however it took me ages to read. This was primarily due to originally reading this book only aloud back and forth with my mother. Click here for more details on that. However with me moving around for college placements, and work schedules it just didn't work out. We then decided to divide the book and read 3 chapters each week (only about 70 pages) on our own then on Sundays we would discuss what had happened, who the new characters were, etc. more like a book club. This worked a LOT better as you can see since we finally finished the book, together!

I read some other reviews (mostly one liners on Goodreads) of this book before & while I was reading this book and there was a lot of talk of this book being very repetitive, especially for those who have read the previous three books. However what I guessed they might have been referring to, I found really useful. I haven't read the previous books so I found the explanations of who everyone was in Elizabeth's family really helped me to understand where everyone fit in and some of what happened in the past in order to better understand the dynamics between some of the characters.

I feel this book is fine as a stand alone and I only decreased my star rating do to the excessive detail Bertrice Small goes into the bedroom scenes that I found somewhat unnecessary although that might be what some are looking for in a romance novel which is definitely more romance than historical. I do however plan to go back and read the rest of the series as I would like to read more about what Elizabeth's mother was like when she was younger as well as the years prior to this book when Elizabeth is growing up.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

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