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Rivals for the Crown by Kathleen Givens
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1351137,141 (3.62)9
1290: Turmoil erupts when the seven-year-old queen of Scotland perishes en route to claim the crown. Two bitter foes -- John Balliol and Robert Bruce -- emerge as possible successors, but England's Edward I has his own designs on Scotland.

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The historical setting for this novel is what first drew me to it. I've always been interested in the Scottish struggle for independence in the 14th century, with all its inherent drama, emotional content, and struggle against tyranny. This novel doesn't disappoint in that aspect. The author captures the emotions of the times in all their harsh glory. The author has captured enough historical detail to make 14th century Scotland and London come to vivid life for her readers.

Most of the characters came to life for me. Both of our heroines and one of our heroes sucked me into their daily struggles to survive and thrive in the brewing war atmosphere. I especially enjoyed Rachel. She was a lovely mix of insecurity in her place in the world and holding fast to the traditions that have maintained her family for centuries. Seeing her try to blend those traditions with an ever-changing world kept me enthralled.

I wish I could say all the characters were as riveting. Rachel's love-interest, Kiernan was pretty much a side character. He'd pop in now and then to perform a rescue and steal a kiss, but for the most part, he's a flat, two-dimensional Highlander dude that I didn't really connect with.

And that leads into the romance side of things. Rory's and Isabel's romance was sweet and attention-capturing. Seeing how these two had to overcome almost insurmountable odds to be together was entertaining as hell. And yet, Rachel's and Kiernan's romance?! It's almost pretty much a "What romance?!" kind of situation. With hardly any page time together in the novel, I was left wondering more than once how they even started to feel anything for each other. They hardly knew each other.

While overall the pacing of the narrative was pretty smooth and kept the reader engaged from one scene to the next, there were times where the author lumped in months within a few pages then turned around and put a few days over chapters. There were also sections that read more like a historical textbook, with paragraphs that said basically "In this year, this happened" or "In this month, that happened". Not novel-like at all and that threw me out of the story more than once.

Overall, this was an enjoyable novel detailing the Scottish struggle for independence in the 14th century. The main characters were lovely to get to know, and one of the romances was very engaging. Yet, with pacing issues, a romance that really wasn't there at all, and somewhat flat main hero, this book is kept from being outstanding to just being mundane. It's a good read, but I probably won't be re-reading it any time soon. ( )
  Sarah_Gruwell | Jan 12, 2016 |
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