Rivals for the Crown

Written by Kathleen Givens
Review by Susan Higginbotham

In 1290 London, childhood friends Isabel de Burke and Rachel of Anjou are abruptly parted when King Edward I expels the Jews from England. As Rachel and her family make their way to Scotland, where they start life anew as innkeepers, Isabel becomes a lady-in-waiting to Queen Eleanor of Castile. When tension between England and Scotland mounts, Isabel and Rachel find themselves caught in the middle—and attracted to two handsome Highlanders, cousins Rory MacGannon and Kieran MacDonald.

Givens’ romantic historical is plotted deftly, with likeable main characters, plenty of intrigue and narrow escapes, and truly dastardly English villains in the Braveheart tradition, including the always reliably nasty Edward I (offstage) and his lecherous sidekick, Bishop Walter Langton. The book was marred for me, though, by the distinctly modern attitudes sometimes displayed by the sympathetic characters: for instance, in an age not noted for its religious tolerance, the only people opposed to the romance between Rachel and Kieran are Rachel’s father and Rachel’s Jewish fiancé (who as a butcher doesn’t stand a chance against a handsome Highlander). Readers who can suspend their disbelief more readily, however, will likely enjoy this book.