This intriguing historical romance continues the series which showcases the women who surround and guard the intrepid Queen Eleanor as she navigates the treacherous political and physical dangers that face the Crusaders. The wonderful detail provided in the tale underscores the hardship and the unswerving faith of the participants in this struggle even as it showcases determined women who refused to be pigeonholed into traditional roles. There were some aspects which were a bit predictable and I am a bit irked by the actions of some of the secondary characters but this is still a entertaining book that centers on an era that is not often addressed in historical romances. An excellent addition to the series.
“The Queen’s Guard: Peony” by Traci E. Hall is the second book in the series that features a remarkable group of women tasked with guarding Queen Eleanor during the Crusades. Catherine le Rochefort is a widow with plenty of secrets but Payen de Montfer doesn’t suspect that she is providing her queen with the same services that he is tasked to provide the queen’s husband, King Louis, i.e. spying. Catherine’s code name is Peony, in keeping with the flower theme that the queen’s guards use. Each of these strong-willed individuals has past sins they are atoning for but they are each fiercely loyal to their monarchs. Catherine’s unexpected whim to save a young thief from his struggle to survive has unexpected repercussions but serves to bring Catherine even closer to Payen as they both struggle to be free from their respective pasts.
Set in the winter of 1147, the second book in The Queen’s Guard series follows Lady Catherine le Rochefort, who was welcomed into the ranks of Queen Eleanor’s guard after escaping a deadly encounter. The French army makes its way through Asia Minor, which King Louis determined to recapture Edessa, a holy undertaking blessed by the Pope. After leaving Constantinople, Queen Eleanor waits with her guard and retinue in Nicea for King Louis to decide which route the caravan should take toward Antioch and her uncle Raymond’s palace. Eleanor caused trouble in Constantinople, so Louis asks his trusted friend Lord Payen de Montfer to infiltrate the guard and listen for dissent. Payen, whose painful past has taught him that beauty makes a man weak, does his best to ignore the fair Catherine, while Catherine tries to protect her deadly secret from the observant man. Catherine seeks only to reach Jerusalem, where absolution awaits, but soon she’s fighting her feelings for Payen. If the two give in to their attraction, Payen’s honor is at stake and Catherine fears she could lose her soul.