3 out of 4 stars
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On the eve of her execution, Marie Antoinette is beside herself. She does not weep for her own fate, but for those of her children, who will have to face the world without her, if they are even still alive at all. She is suddenly approached by a gypsy woman who tells her that she has managed to find and rescue two of her children, Marie Thérèse and Louis, and will protect them and raise them as her own in England. With this knowledge, Marie Antoinette is able to face the guillotine with peace.
Eight years later, the gypsy’s spell that has cleverly disguised Marie Thérèse, now known as Velvet, has broken. As soon as she returns to her previous form, it seems the whole world is after her. The King of England has vowed that she and her brother are harbingers of death and must be found and killed at once. Henry Thomas Augustus, the Duke of Newcastle, is to lead the charge against the French heirs to the throne. The problem is, Henry remembers Marie Thérèse from when she was a girl and has always held feelings of love and protectiveness for her. Which is more important now, his loyalty to the king or his feelings for a young woman whom he does not believe is the danger she is made out to be? Will he be the one to kill her, or will he end up saving her?
Red Velvet by JP Roth is the first book in The Lost Princess series. It contains a unique blend of action, romance, and fantasy elements. This first book introduces the major characters: Velvet, Henry, Louis, and Nora, the king’s illegitimate daughter who vows to help Velvet escape her fate. The story is full of action from the first page to the very last, and it ends in a cliffhanger. It is primarily told from Velvet’s perspective, but it occasionally switches to the point of view of other characters.
There are a lot of things I enjoyed about this novel. First, the author’s writing style was beautifully descriptive. I could picture each scene with perfect clarity. Second, I loved the characters of this book, especially the strong female characters. Velvet and Nora were both brave, strong, confident, and feisty. Despite the year being 1800, they did not allow themselves to be dominated by the men around them. I also loved the mystical elements of the book. The gypsy spells and the mystery surrounding them were very intriguing to me.
That said, there were a few issues I had with the book as well. For one thing, the book needs the help of a professional editor, as I found many errors. I also noticed phrases that seemed out of place for the year 1800, such as a reference to a “gossip rag,” someone making a “note to self,” or the use of the word “freaking.” In addition, I had a hard time with the nearly constant battle scenes that raged throughout the book. There was a lot of graphic violence, as people fought with swords, fire, and fingernails, and as soon as one battle ended, another began. It got to the point where I doubted how the characters could even continue on with all the injuries they sustained.
Overall, I had a hard time coming up with a rating for Red Velvet due to my mixed feelings about its strengths and weaknesses. I felt that it was probably a 2.5-star book, but given the fact that many of the issues can easily be cleaned up with the help of a professional editor, I will round the rating up to 3 out of 4 stars. The audience for this book seems somewhat tricky to me, as readers would need to enjoy both romantic themes as well as a plotline that contains a great deal of violent action. There was no erotic and very little romantic content in this book, but the storyline has been developed in such a way that I could see the romance being much more fleshed out later in the series.
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