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Golden Rose by Denee Cody
(Zebra, $4.99, R) ISBN 0-8217-5908-6
****
Readers who like a strong dash of history with their romance will find a lot to like in Denée Cody's newest release, The Golden Rose. Careful research and vivid use of historical detail lift this story far above the average historical romance.

Catherine Avery is returning to her beloved home, Rosmar Castle, with her small daughter and a few loyal servants. Her husband is dead, and Catherine longs for the peace she knows awaits her. Her plan is to live out her days quietly, raising Nell and gardening while keeping the castle safe for Nell's inheritance. The death of her despised husband has liberated Catherine, though his support of King Henry VII gained him Rosmar in the first place.

Upon arriving at Rosmar, Catherine is shocked to find the Mandeville standard flying from the top of the castle. The Mandevilles were the previous owners of Rosmar, having lost their lands after the Battle of Bosworth in which they supported the ill-fated Richard Plantagenet. Fourteen years have passed. Andrew Mandeville has since gained King Henry's favor and been repaid with the return of Rosmar to the Mandeville family. The king, however, has one demand. Andrew will be guardian to little Nell and must marry Catherine, or the castle will be stripped from the Mandevilles upon Andrew's death.

Andrew gets off on the wrong foot with Catherine. Determined to bend this woman to his will, he threatens to take Nell away from her unless she does his bidding. Catherine has already sent Nell into hiding, and meets this outrageous suggestion with a few choice words of her own. She demands time to think it over, and after spending a bit more time with Catherine, Andrew agrees to give her a month to get to know him. During this month, their feelings for each other change dramatically.

Henry Tudor has brought an uneasy peace to England with his marriage to Elizabeth of York, but it is not a peace that all hope will last. Usurpers to the throne abound. Andrew will soon be an unwilling pawn in a scheme to unseat the king, one that will place himself and Catherine in danger, as well as his brothers, Hugh and Jamie.

This story has an unusual flow, one that could only work in the skilled hands of a history buff like Ms. Cody. Catherine and Andrew have found each other by the middle of the book; their challenge is not to discover love, but to discover how to keep it safe. Catherine is an interesting mix of strong-willed widow, loving mother, and gentlewoman of the times, one who knows her choices are always limited to what those in power will allow. Andrew is a painful figure, full of dark secrets and hurts that have driven a huge wedge between him and other people. He has never hoped to love until he meets Catherine, then against his will, he is ensnared.

The story moves at a brisk pace. Readers should be warned that the historical events need some prior knowledge; there is a descendant chart included in the book, and that may come in handy. Ms. Cody doesn't stop to retrace the entire Hundred Years War, thank goodness, which saves readers a tedious history lesson but may leave them reaching for the World Book. If this doesn't seem to be your cup of tea, well, be warned. The romance takes a back seat to the court intrigue for the second half of the book.

On the other hand, history under the skillful pen of an author such as Ms. Cody can be an enhancement to the story, lending flavor and life to a period. The smoke of London, the putrid River Thames, and the plague hospitals are contrasted with the opulence of court, with the effect that I felt I was right there. I like books that can transport me to another time and place. This one definitely did.

So, an enthusiastic "thumbs up" to The Golden Rose. Denée Cody has woven an intriguing tale of passion found, honor redeemed, and love triumphant. Historical romance lovers, curl up and enjoy.

(Note: Readers, Denée Cody has a special message for you regarding this book. All royalties will go toward an important cause. Please take a moment to look at her note to you.)

--Cathy Sova


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