Fifteen years later, England emerges into a fragile but hopeful new age, with the charismatic young King Edward IV on the throne. Anne, now a young peasant girl, joins the household of a wealthy London merchant. Her unusual beauty provokes jealousy, lust, and intrigue, but Anne has a special quality that saves her: a vast knowledge of healing herbs. News of her extraordinary gift spreads, and she is called upon to save the ailing queen. Soon after, Anne is moved into the palace, where she finds her destiny with the man who will become the greatest love of her life -- the king himself.
The Innocent has been in my TBR pile for quite some time. It is set during the period of the War of The Roses and I've read quite a few books with the same setting so, while I am often curious about that period, I also fear that my expectations will be too high and I tend to postpone picking them up unless they are recommended by friends.
The story starts in 1450 with a birth, the baby lives but the mother dies in labour. We find out that she was being protected by Royal Guards till they were ambushed in a forest.
Fast forward fifteen years and Anne, a young girl, is brought by her foster mother to the city to work as a servant in merchant's house. Her knowledge of herbs saves the merchant's wife who was dying and eventually her healing gift brings her to the attention of the court's doctor and she plays a role in helping Edward IV's Queen giving birth to their first daughter.
At court Anne attracts the King's eye and in time she discovers she is not just little Anne but actually a bastard daughter of the previous King, Henry VI, and a young gentlewoman. While she struggles not to give in to the attraction between her and the King she also has to deal with the fact that she is now an eventual threat to his throne and that she has gained a few enemies along the way.
I have to say that I found this an entertaining and fast read, it's not heavy in historical detail and the story focuses much more in Anne's everyday life and feelings so I would think of this more as historical romance than historical fiction, especially the second half of the story. However I did have some problems with Anne.
She seemed too perfect. A fifteen year old girl who can heal better than doctors, evade unwanted advances, became friends with those she serves and still maintain a wide eyed innocence seemed a bit unreal. Then, she finds her way to court still maintaining the same innocence, gaining other's admiration and managing to attract the King just with a glance and a touch or two. And the King, who is known for his numerous meaningless affairs, manages to fall in love with her deeply. I don't know about you but to me it seemed too much of a good thing happening to one person.
One other thing that bothered me was the change in her after she discovers she is a royal bastard. It's almost as that gave her instant maturity. She starts thinking that she has a role in the politics of the time and that she has to think of her future according to her new bloodlines. It's not that I think she might not have had a role but she is only an illegitimate daughter. I'm not sure if she would be such a big threat to Edward's crown.
Still, as I said, it makes for an entertaining read, if you think you won't be bothered by these aspects this may well be the book for you. This is the first book in a trilogy and I am undecided whether I should track down the other two or not...