The Best of Men
I really wanted to enjoy this book. The size didn’t put me off, and the cover informed me that in 1642 one man had to unravel a coded plot to kill the king. Everything should have added up to a good read. So why did I find the book so tedious?
I think because there are really two novels here. There’s a genre romance of the misunderstood, dark and brooding hero, Laurence Beaumont, son and heir to a fortune, on his black stallion, with his upper-crust, whoring lover, Isabella, who rides as if moulded to her horse, and is intelligent and resourceful. This plot has all the usual pages of detailed sex and sexual tension as found in genre romance. There’s even the back story of Laurence’s lover, the gypsy Juana. All very unrealistic, clichéd and bodice-ripping, with not an STD in sight!
The political plot had enough strength to stand on its own, and it would have been better to cut the romance back to a subplot and not a competing parallel plot. What the reader gets is intrigue continually interrupted by lengthy chunks of the romance and back story, carrying information that could have been introduced in other ways. The tension, which should have been building up to an exciting climax, is continually weakened by these interruptions. Sexual climaxes we had in plenty; the political one fizzled out. Because we learn very early on what the plot is and who the plotters are, we needed pacy writing, a clever build up of tension, and those dithering delays by King Charles used to tease the reader into wondering if Laurence is ever going to succeed. Instead, the reader gets a rather flabby and frustrating read. Such a pity.