Behind Closed Doors by Betina Krahn
I really, really love Betina Krahn’s latest books, especially her current series about the Bumgarten family of ‘dollar princesses’, but this isn’t one of those. It was originally published in 1991, which I realised to my dismay a few pages into it when I started thinking that it read very ‘old skool’ and went to Goodreads to check. I mean… it’s not old skool like something from the 1970s which features forced kisses and other icky nonconsensual things, but it does start off with a hero having revenge fantasies about heartlessly seducing women he doesn’t even know, something which is a pretty instant turn-off and I don’t think you’d see published in a romance today.
The book needs trigger warnings for child sexual abuse (the hero was raped by an older woman at court when he was 13) and for animal cruelty (there’s a way-too-graphic scene where a bear, bull and ape are baited and killed by dogs for the entertainment of the Elizabethan court). Rugar, the hero, starts off overbearing but it’s slowly revealed that he does have a difficult history which has had the logical result of turning him into something of a control freak who hates to lose at anything. Pitting himself against Queen Elizabeth, however, is nothing short of foolhardy, because Elizabeth really didn’t tolerate losing well at all, and Rugar’s not the only one the queen’s anger falls upon.
Which brings us to Corinne, our heroine, a favourite of the queen because of her innocence, her quick mind, her beauty and, frankly, her being a massive Mary-Sue. Corrie is quite literally too perfect for words and as perfect people do, she really quickly started to get on my nerves. Even a potential enemy is charmed into becoming an ally by Corinne being just her adorably artless self, something which came off really unlikely given the Mean Girls vibe the court ladies gave off in general. That’s actually very historically accurate given what we know of Elizabeth I’s court; historical accuracy is probably this book’s strongest point and I found nothing to quibble with on that front at all. Scenes featuring the queen herself were fascinating, showing Elizabeth as strong-willed, tireless and perpetually Angry at the world she found herself living in. I wanted more of her and less of the perfect Corinne.
No matter how well-written and historically accurate the book, though, the fact that I didn’t like either of the two main protagonists in the romance leave this as a three-star for me. It’s not terrible, but it’s not up to the standard of Betina Krahn’s more recent writing.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.