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Nicole of Prie Mer: Book One of the Latter…
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Nicole of Prie Mer: Book One of the Latter Annals of Lystra

by Robin Hardy

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This the first title in the much-hyped ‘Latter Annals of Lystra’ series sets the tone for the following two novels.
Basically it begins with a peasant called Nicole who is invited to the palace at the behest of slutty princess Renee, by very unconvincingly passing her off as a noblewoman.
Within a few days she is married to Ares, the Commander of the army, but the course of love does not run smooth as Surchatain (King) Cedric has designs upon her, and Chatain (Prince) Tancred of Scylla also becomes infatuated with her.

When all these difficulties for Nicole are overcome Ares faces difficulties of his own as Cedric becomes increasingly hostile to him because of his rival claim to the throne, and fears Ares will father a child with Nicole, so thinks up every nefarious scheme he can to be rid of Ares.



As the brief synopsis suggests Hardy throws everything she can at Ares and Nicole in this novel, to the point it almost becomes unbelievable. Most of the ‘action’ of the novel consists of various relationship fiascos worthy of something from an episode of Jerry Springer or Oprah, with people jumping into each other’s beds, trying to steal other people’s spouses or lovers, boasting about how many people they have slept with, and lots of angry partners, tears and tantrums.

The most ludicrous character has to be Renee, who spends most of the novel throwing tantrums, whining about how horrible her parents are, or breaking up with her latest husband/fiancée when she is not trying to get Ares into bed with her, that is. When not doing this she is bragging about how many people she has slept with, telling rude jokes and stories or tormenting people.

Yet for all her shameless public conduct Renee still maintains a public facade and personal delusion that she is an ‘honourable’ ‘virtuous’ and ‘respectable’ Lady. So when her husband Magnus divorces her after only a few days of marriage because she was not a virgin Renee throws a tantrum to trump them all, taking out her anger on her ‘wicked’ father, and vowing revenge on the ‘wicked’ ex-husband who dared to tell the truth about her behaviour and supposedly damaged her ‘good’ reputation.



Yet is spite of the Renee’s well-known sexual promiscuity, which she makes no secret of, the audience is supposed to believe that Cedric Renee’s father is cruel and wicked for not allowing her to have men in her bedroom, and becoming suspicious and her suggestive and flirtatious behaviour.



Thus Cedric is demonized for the entire duration of the novel, mostly unfairly, as many of the actions for which he is demonized are justified and quite legitimate. Apparently he is ‘evil’ for ‘forcing’ his daughter into an arranged marriage, contrary to her wishes, despite the fact that this was the norm for aristocrats of both sexes in the Medieval period.

Most absurdly, we are supposed to believe that Cedric was to partially blame for his wife committing adultery, and when she is bought before him to answer charges she is presented as the innocent yet brave victim, and he as a maniacal ranting insanely jealous tyrant who is evil for wanting to punish her.

This highlights an important aspect of the morality in this series. It is implied throughout that it is quite acceptable for women to be sexually promiscuous, and commit adultery, but never for men.

Thus men who visit prostitutes, sleep around or cheat on their wives are depicted as lecherous, lustful and immoral. Yet women who behave this way are claimed to be ‘in love’, or their conduct is blamed on somebody else, or is regarded as morally and socially acceptable.

Not only is this a moral double standard, it is also historically and socially nonsensical, but then in the entire series the values and attitudes of the characters are almost entirely modern and do not reflect those of the period

For all the claims by the author that this novel promotes Christian sexual morality, and ‘God honouring sexuality’ I see little of either in it. So the first installment in this rather sorry series is arguably one of the worst of the lot, and certainly not worthy of the hyped-up praise that is heaped upon it. ( )
  Medievalgirl | Oct 4, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0974582905, Paperback)

One hundred years after the Great Surchatain Roman of Lystra . . . The beautiful Chataine Ren?e meets Nicole, 17-year-old daughter of a humble tailor, at the fair and insists she come for a visit to the palace at Westford. Raised in a peasant village on the coast, Nicole is unprepared for the sophistication and treachery of palace life-but her father has decreed that she shall not come home without a rich or noble husband. Nicole's prospects include Counselor Carmine, handsome but disinterested; Commander Ares, who carries the pain of his past, and possibly even Surchatain Cedric himself. But these are dark times for the little province of Lystra, and Nicole discovers that in the presence of danger, even good men may veil the truth.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:13 -0400)

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