I had never heard of Posie Graeme-Evans before and so had no idea of her writing skills and, to be honest, only bought 'The Innocent' as is was on the shelves as part of the 3 books for £5 offer at Publishers Outlet. So this was going to be a whole new experience for me, and my word, what an experience!!!
The story is set in medieval England (1465) and is centered on a young girl called Anne. Her mother died in childbirth and she is adopted by Deborah who lives in a rural village and this is where Anne was raised.
At the age of 15 she goes to service in London for Mathew Cuttifer, a wealthy merchant and acquaintance of the King. Anne has a talent for concocting herbs etc for medicinal purposes and saves the mistress of the house, Margaret, from her bedridden ailments. She quickly becomes the Margaret's servant with Aveline, a servant already tending to Margaret.
Shortly after Anne arrives in the household Aveline becomes pregnant by Piers, Mathew's son, who is also after every woman that he comes into contact with! Both Piers and Aveline are coaxed into marriage, which is a marriage made in hell.
The King, Edward IV, is close to Mathew for money particulars and politics. Anne catches his eye. The Queen goes into a terrifying labour and Anne is sent to help with her medicines. From this she leaves the Cuttifer residence and is taken into the royal household to serve the Queen.
Edward tries to 'court' Anne, but is unsuccessful as Anne feels that she cannot due to him being married.
Anne clearly falls in love with Edward, but with the onset of secrets that have been held from Anne all her life as to her mother and father and her past, will she be able to stay in the royal household and will Anne's love be reciprocated?
This was not a story that I would have normally bought on its own. As it was included in the offer package I thought that I would give it a try.
The story opens with the struggle of Anne's mother to run away from whoever may be hunting her down and I found that this got me instantly hooked. It is quite a powerful opening chapter and does manage to intrigue you enough to carry on.
From the point where Anne is taken into service with Mathew Cuttifer you will not fail to notice that Evans is graphic in the sexual scenes and they are not few and far between. There was one scene between Aveline and Piers where the sexual nature was written in detail and due to the later progression of the story I did understand why this was played out as it was.
Evans has done well in her research of medieval England and as I continued through the book I found myself being lost in the medieval realm and seeing what I was reading. I believe that it always a good sign when reading a book. A good sign of enjoyment!
I was drawn to Anne immediately in the book and I think if you have experienced that first day at the new job (as the majority of us have) and the apprehension and nervousness that you feel, you feel this with Anne when she first goes into service. That characteristic of Anne's character draws you to her straight away and praise to Evans for capturing the reader in this way, making sure that your empathy is directed to Anne. As the story progresses Anne becomes stronger in personality and you find yourself willing her to find the happiness that she is seeking.
Apart from Anne, the other main character is Edward IV. He is portrayed here as a young 24 year old King; strong, intelligent, well liked and one for the ladies!
Anne first meets the King while in the Service of Mathew Cuttifer. He immediately see's Anne as a conquest to his long list of women that he has bedded. It is when she goes to work within the royal household that you can see the attitude of these two people changing and the formation of the bond that they are building, much to the annoyance of the Queen.
When I first met Edward I saw a playboy figure. I pictured him as flouncing around a little bit like Toby Stevens who played in the recent BBC adaptation of Robin Hood as King John; slightly false in personality. This changed as the story progressed and I have to say that I don't know about Anne falling in love with the King, but by the end of the book, I was head over heels!!!
There are some fantastic characters in the book including the patient and loving Mathew and Margaret Cuttifer where she was in her first service and Jehanne in the royal household who is crucial to Anne's past. All characters were portrayed as believable and each one had their own story to tell and the stories are incorporated into Anne's story so that everything flows together.
I didn't realise until I looked on Evans' website that 'The Innocent' is the first in a trilogy. I am now looking to purchase 'The Exiled' and 'The Beloved' respectively to carry on the story of Anne.
I really enjoyed this book and by the end I was completely hooked. I am really looking forward to purchasing the other two books and reviews will definitely follow later for those!