Synopsis from Goodreads: Despite her protests, Princess Gisela, headstrong daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, must enter into a diplomatic marriage. Yet en route to her wedding, her ship is attacked and she’s gravely injured. Rescued by a renowned healer, King John of Lydia, Gisela recuperates at his Mediterranean castle. The handsome, widowed ruler soon has her reevaluating her beliefs on love and marriage but only if King John could be her groom. Their love is forbidden, and duty requires him to deliver her to her betrothed. Unless they can find a way to join their hearts—and kingdoms—with love, faith and honor.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: There is just nothing like a novel that opens with drama and doesn’t stop until the very last word. A Royal Marriage opens with King John of Lydia warily watching as a ship, flying the royal flags of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, approaches his coast. Neither King John nor his advisors can think of a reason why the emperor or one of his envoys would be making an unplanned and unannounced stop in Lydia. What comes off the ship is surprise to all and sets in motion a series of events with the potential to cause two great nations, the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire to wage vicious war against one another.
What comes off the ship is the lovey yet badly injured and on the verge of death, Princess Gisela who was, before her ship was attacked by Saracen pirates, on her way to meet her betrothed, an Illyrian prince. For King John this information is troubling on several levels: 1) his reputation for healing is well-known but Gisela’s injury is quite severe; 2) the herb needed to help Gisela is across the border and into enemy Illyrian territory and; 3) if Gisela dies both the Illyrians and Charlemagne are going to be very cranky. For King John, the peace his father’s life bought for Lydia and the protection of his citizens is paramount and the only possible way he can ensure the two is to save Gisela’s life. What John doesn’t count on is the strength and determination of Princess Gisela.
Gisela may be a princess from one of Europe’s most powerful courts but she is no shrinking violet. Despite her injury, Gisela is determined to minimize the risk to King John and his people. To this end, she rides with John to find the herb needed to heal her and discovers along the journey just how honorable and good the young king is. All seems to be going according to plan until John and Gisela inadvertently alert the Illyrians to their presence; from this point forward it is a race to avert war! During the flight back to the safety of Lydia’s castle, Gisela decides her place is by John’s side as he fights for the safety of his kingdom. Her ulterior motive? Gisela really, really has no interest in marrying an Illyrian prince especially as she begins to learn more about King John. As the plot unfolds many secrets and truths are revealed including why King John has refused to re-marry, how and why the Illyrians attacked and killed John’s father, who John’s head-strong younger sister is in love with, and how John and Gisela will navigate some incredibly tricky political waters in order to be together.
The bottom line: this loosely based on history novel is a fairly fast-paced read with a healthy dose of intrigue, romance, battle, and resolution. Gisela and John are both fine characters the reader can easily get behind and root for as Gisela is quick-thinking, capable, and determined and John is kind, intelligent, and compassionate. Gisela fits easily and comfortably into John’s world which allows her relationship with him to progress in a quick though believable way.
Throughout, John and Gisela are supported by a decent cast of minor characters who are sure to play a much larger role in future installments of this series. A Royal Marriage is a read which is quite easy to fall into and carries the reader smoothly through from beginning to end. There is plenty of action and intrigue mixed with romance which will keep lovers of all of the above interested , entertained, and turning pages quickly.
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