Pros: Interesting world-building, and an interesting way of integrating history and fantasy.
Cons: The heroine can be irritating at times, and I wish I understood more of why some of the conflict was taking place.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Penguin Group
When Rhys Williams finds out that King Henry VIII’s new wife may be in peril, he convinces his old friend Verity Llewellyn to come to court and aid him. Verity wants very much to prove herself capable, and when they learn that it may be a vampire that threatens the queen, Verity knows she must train herself to be able to face this threat. Though they each have different suspects, they must each move past their past and work together, otherwise the queen and her child may both perish.
Mark of the Rose is the third book in the Tudor Vampire series, which began with Kiss of the Rose. “Blood of the Rose”, the second book in the series, didn’t make it into my review stacks. That’s actually okay with me since it gives me a better feel for how the book stands on its own. (That, and I found the heroine of the previous two books rather obnoxious in book one.) I do think “Mark of the Rose” is an improvement on the first in the series; Verity isn’t nearly as aggravating as Rosalind was, and I was extremely gratified to get more of a window into the historical elements of the story. With that being said, as much as I enjoy seeing Henry VIII’s court and all of the colorful characters there, I can’t help but wish that I had a better sense of just how the vampires and druids fit into the larger plot.
This is one of the same complaints that I had with “Blood of the Rose” but I had hoped that it would be addressed as we progressed through the series. I wish I understood better why it is so important that the Druids keep the vampires in check; that would certainly help me get more caught up in the story. As it stands now, I can’t help but feel like the conflict is somewhat artificial because I don’t have a good grasp of what the stakes really are. If this is your first book in the series, you’ll likely be even more confused; there’s barely any recap that helped me reorient myself in the series. I almost had to go to Amazon to see if they had posted an excerpt so that I could get a bit more information on what had passed.
The hero and heroine Rhys and Verity both feel like fairly stereotypical romance characters, I didn’t really find that much to distinguish them from others that I’ve read, and Verity has a bit of the drama-happy heroine about her. I felt so bad for Rhys when their Misunderstanding happened, because I understood Rhys’ perspective before the author explains it several pages later. Verity I simply wanted to shake, but at least she’s able to generally behave as an adult.
The vampires I actually found to be the most interesting characters in the story; I’m looking forward in particular to (hopefully) seeing Elias’ story. I know he’s got an interesting story that leads to where he is in the books and what his motives are. I really hope that as the series progresses we get to know him better. At least Elias has depth to him; other characters aren’t so lucky. King Henry VIII came across as paranoid and half-mad, a man nearly incapable of ruling on his own. What a shame, to see such a larger than life character sold short. And the villain came across so stereotyped and one-dimensionally evil I felt like others should have noticed something of their evil as well.
A good deal of my complaints about this book and the series boil down to the fact that I don’t feel like I’m getting many details about anything that’s not necessary to move the plot forward. It feels like a good deal of life and intrigue at court are being glossed over, to the point that several times during the book I felt as if Rhys and Verity were simply superimposed over Henry’s court. It was the literary equivalent of a bad Photoshop job. If you’re a reader that doesn’t care much for labyrinthine court intrigue then this probably won’t bother you as much as it did me, but when a character can essentially waltz in and see the King of England, I really do expect her to have a lot more to do with the politics of the day.
For me, as interesting as I find the premise of the Tudor Vampire Chronicles, I am looking for not only the romance of the book to live up to my ideas of the times, but for the history to fulfill a certain set of expectations as well, and “Mark of the Rose” didn’t do that for me. For those readers looking for a paranormal romance based on an interesting premise this series is probably worth a peek, but if you enjoy detailed historical fiction then it’s probably one to skip. That being said, I do look forward to finding out more about the history Ms. Pearce has envisioned and trying to figure out Elias’ story.