Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gallant Knights and Fair Ladies - An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund (2015, 4 stars)

An Uncertain Choice
Jody Hedlund

* This book officially releases to the public on March 3rd, 2015. I received an advanced reader's copy, free of charge, from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.

Official Back Cover Synopsis:

Due to her parents' promise at her birth, Lady Rosemarie has been prepared to become a nun on the day she turns eighteen. Then, a month before her birthday, a friend of her father's enters the kingdom and proclaims her parents' will left a second choice. If Rosemarie can marry before the eve of her eighteenth year, she will be exempt from the ancient vow.

Before long, Rosemarie is presented with the three most handsome and brave knights in the land. But when the competition for her heart seemingly results in a knight playing foul, she begins to wonder if the cloister is the best place after all. If only one of the knights the one who appears the most guilty had not already captured her heart.

If you get a chance, hop on over to Jody's BLOG and get to know her better. Would-be writers are fortunate in that she's willing and happy to share tips from her years of experience as a published author!

My Personal Thoughts:

I was very careful while reading An Uncertain Choice to bear in mind the audience for which it is really intended, that is, teenage girls. I was one myself and so it wasn't too far of a stretch to remember that period in my life when my little heart went pitter-pat over the romanticism of knights, kings, queens, and fair ladies. To be honest, my heart still does that every time I think of Ivanhoe.

It's rare, at least it feels rare, to find a Christian historic YA series. At least not one set during the Middle Ages. So I am delighted to find Ms. Hedlund branching out with her writing into other areas of history that are not based on American soil. She's trying something new and I'm pretty sure it's going to pay off. Why? Because I found An Uncertain Choice to be absolutely charming!

The heroine, Lady Rosemarie, has been protected from the influence of romance for the last four years of her life, ever since the death of her parents, because she knows she must go to the church upon her eighteenth birthday. Can you even imagine resigning yourself to celibacy like that? Before you even know what not being celibate means? But an old friend of the family discovers a loophole for her, one he hopes desperately that she will take, and so he brings three of his best and most valiant knights to attempt to win her hand. If she can fall in love and marry before her eighteenth birthday, she is released from the vow her parents made upon her birth.

Now comes the issue of choosing a knight. Sir Bennet, Sir Collin, and Sir Derrick are the noblest of knights, all with strengths and weaknesses. Having no skill or experience with men, Rosemarie finds herself growing fond of all of them, but she can only marry one, and so she must choose, all while in a turmoil over the illness plaguing the people of her land, and the cruelty and torture methods exhibited by her sheriff who neither respects her nor adheres to her wishes.

Rosemarie is a delightful character, fresh and lovely with a strong and steady faith, having already dedicated so much of her young life to the service of God and to the caring of the people in her small kingdom. She truly wants to put the good of her people ahead of herself, and that makes me admire her all the more, especially considering her youth. All the knights have different skills, talents, and personalities that would each endear themselves to a certain type of young woman. But for Rosemarie there really is only one choice, who I will not name, but who I'm sure the readers will guess almost immediately.

And there's where my one minor hint of frustration arises. There was no point in having three knights. The reader could literally guess everything that was going to happen, right down to the dastardly villain who crops up near the end of the story. But I knew who Rosemarie would pick, and I certainly knew which of the knights was the one at the very beginning who rode to the rescue when Rosemarie attempted to stop public torture in her village square. I knew who he was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, and so for her to spent 40 or so pages trying to figure out which knight he was, made the going a little bit slow for me because it was obvious.

However, this is not a book necessarily meant for my generation, but for a generation younger, and so I refuse to judge too harshly. This is teen fiction, and as such, it is excellently written. I do, however, wish there had been less talk of public torture and less description of torture devices and their resulting effects. My stomach is a little squeamish, and that almost felt too much for me to handle, particularly near the end. It made me want to shoom into the Doctor's Tardis, go back in time, and beat a few choice torture device inventors over the head with a mace. But that's just me.

An Uncertain Choice is a charming little book set in an era that doesn't get enough attention right now. I love the Middle Ages, sans torture devices, and I absolutely adore knights. So Ms. Hedlund really wrote a delightful winner. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that maybe she'll write a few adult novels in this same era now that she's given it a try in YA fiction! Also, I'm pretty sure that is meant to be a series judging by how the novel ends, so I'm expecting a sequel at some point!

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