The Best Of Men (2009)
The Best Of Men (2009)
About book: I really wanted to enjoy this book. I’d read the author review in the Historical Novel Society’s journal. I knew she’d spent 10 years researching and writing the novel. The size - nearly 700 pages - didn’t put me off. The cover information said that in 1642 one man had to unravel a coded plot to kill the King. Great I thought this would be a 17thC C.J. Sansom style, political intrigue plot which I really enjoy. Everything should have added up to a good read. So why did I not enjoy the book. I think because there are really two novels here. There’s a genre romance with the dark and brooding hero, Laurence Beaumont, son and heir to a fortune, on his black stallion. He spends his time screwing any female he finds, preferably other men’s wives, drinks himself drunk nearly every night, vomits, smokes hash, but is really a poor misunderstood nice kind gentleman. The female lead in this romance is an upper crust whore, Isabella, who rides as if moulded to her horse, but is intelligent and resourceful. This plot has all the usual ‘she loves me, she loves me not’ byplay, pages of detailed sex, and sexual tension as found in genre romance. There’s even the back story of Laurence’s lover, the gypsy Juana. All very unrealistic, clichéd and bodice ripping, with not an STD or unwanted pregnancy in sight I am not a fan of genre historical romance and having been told in the blurb the novel was a thriller about decoding a plot to kill the King, I found all this rather gross and graphic sex a bore. Perhaps the author’s agent had told her ‘sex sells’. As a sub plot, halved in quantity, it might have been tolerable but there was too much and it threatened to take over. The political plot had enough strength to stand on its own. I wish an editor had told the author this and made her concentrate on it, cutting the romance back to a subplot and not a competing parallel plot. What the reader gets is intrigue continually interrupted by lengthy chunks of the romance and also long wedges of Laurence’s back story, carrying information which could have been introduced in other ways. The tension, which should have been building up to an exciting climax, is continually weakened by these interruptions. Sexual climaxes we had in plenty, the political one fizzled out. Because we learn very early on what the plot is and who the plotters are we needed pacey writing, a clever build up of tension, and those irritating dithering delays by King Charles used to tease the reader into wondering if Laurence is ever going to succeed. Instead the reader gets a flabby and frustrating read. Such a pity. Overall the novel was good. On a scale from 1 to 10 I would give it a 6. I liked the characters Laurence Beaumont and Mistress Isabella Savage. I thought that they were meant to be together. Throughout the novel I was often confused if the novel was during the present time or just a memory from the past. As well, I wasn't sure who was speaking to whom several times through the novel.I would have prefered more description of each character. When I read a novel, I like to picture it in my head. (It's my way of better understanding the novel). In the case of this novel, it was very hard to do.I thought there would have been more talk about the civil war; Things like why it started and that sort of thing.
I enjoyed this book so much, I went right out and bought the sequel, "The License of War."
What an epic story. It would be great movie. It really captured my interest.
Another rollicking good read! Looking forward to the sequel due out this year.