Grace A. Johnson
book review: the rose and the thistle by laura frantz
Updated: Jan 25
Where do I begin? How can I put into words the enchanting beauty of this novel, this lovely work of art?
I’ve noticed many reviews for The Rose and the Thistle thus far coming from first-time Frantz readers—and I’m not surprised that they all say this book of hers won’t be their last. TRATT is exactly the exquisite wonder I have come to expect from Laura Frantz, and I know everyone—long-time fans and new readers—will be as captivated by this story of an English rose and a Scottish thistle as I was.
I first fell in love for this novel just from the blurb (or, let’s face it, the author name). A love story set in the Scottish Lowlands during the beginning of the Jacobite Uprising? I simply could not ask for anything better. I’ve long wanted a novel set during the Jacobite rebellions, because it was SUCH an intriguing time period that seems so often overlooked in favor of the classics like the American Revolution or the American Civil War. (Is it just me, or are all the American wars overdone?)
Then I met Lady Blythe Hedley. A tall, “plain” bluestocking tossed to and fro by the ever-shifting loyalties and betrayals within and without her country. Despite this, she kept such a level head, a gracious spirit, and a God-honoring heart. Never complained, never snapped, never lorded herself over others, never expressed false humility...basically, she never fell for any of the classic blunders of most heroines, so how could I not love her? (For the record, all of Frantz’s heroines are p e r f e c t i o n.)
I did have one qualm with Blythe. She was one of those heroines who jumped to a harebrained (and really unnecessary) conclusion and dwelt on it even when it was completely unfounded and just plain dumb. But more on that later!
As for Everard Hume… The first chapter with him had me cocking an eyebrow, and I told him sternly, “Make me fall in love with you, dude.” And he did. Oh, good heavens, he did. Why did I ever doubt him (and Laura)? He was the ideal strong, silent, tall, dark, broody, and handsome type (read: my type), and his character was always so authentically written and flawlessly portrayed. He had his soft spots (namely Orin), but he never acted out of character or weak. He was just the perfect combination of sweet and precious and blunt and brooding. Plus, he didn’t take no crap! *applause rings out* I love a good nondramatic hero.
Obviously, I had no qualms with him.
But I did have a small issue (not necessarily a good or bad issue, I guess) with both of them. Neither had an arc. No character growth. The development was spot-on, yes, but there was no change or, well, anything. Had the novel been plot-driven, it would’ve made sense. But…it wasn’t. It was the perfect blend of character-driven and plot-driven, but still no character arcs. THAT SAID, I didn’t miss them, not really. The story was fine without it, but in retrospect it does make me wonder if it would’ve been even better with at least one small character arc.
In keeping with my addressing of qualms, let’s revisit the jumping-to-conclusions subject, shall we? I feel like some drama/conflict may have been forced in with that stupid conclusion Blythe jumped to, and it a way it felt a bit sloppy/contrived...but on the other hand, Everard took all the drama in stride and put it to a swift end. So the drama never saw its fullness, which made me curious as to why it was even there to begin with. *shrugs* Not that big of a deal, I suppose, but I have to find something to nitpick on about this pretty much perfect book. *winks*
Now, back to the good stuff.
This story was ripe for contention and ranting. Frantz could have easily turned this into a Catholic vs. Protestant rant or a political argument…but she didn’t. She clearly and graciously portrayed both sides (religiously and politically) and didn’t create unnecessary conflict between Blythe and Everard with their different beliefs. They respected each other, considered everything from an objective point-of-view, and moved on with their lives. Literally the first time this has ever happened in the history of everything I’ve ever read. *sobs tears of joy*
On that note, I love how Frantz so naturally and authentically writes faith. Nothing is forced, diluted, or too concentrated—everything flows so seamlessly and genuinely. It feels real, not written, you know?
The same goes for her romances, her settings, her accents—all of it! This story came to life so vibrantly and, as Blythe would say, enthrallingly, and I am just in pure awe every time of how talented and skilled Laura Frantz is. How she weaves every element together in a glorious tapestry. How she draws you in and grips you through every single page. How her words become poetry, even when written in Scots.
It’s like this: I’d like to say I found a way to put The Rose and the Thistle into words...but even in this I have still failed. Just read it, folks, and you’ll see this magnificent story unfold a million times better than I could ever describe.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy of this novel from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.
about the book
In 1715, Lady Blythe Hedley's father is declared an enemy of the British crown because of his Jacobite sympathies, forcing her to flee her home in northern England. Secreted to the tower of Wedderburn Castle in Scotland, Lady Blythe awaits who will ultimately be crowned king. But in a house with seven sons and numerous servants, her presence soon becomes known.
No sooner has Everard Hume lost his father, Lord Wedderburn, than Lady Hedley arrives with the clothes on her back and her mistress in tow. He has his own problems--a volatile brother with dangerous political leanings, an estate to manage, and a very young brother in need of comfort and direction in the wake of losing his father. It would be best for everyone if he could send this misfit heiress on her way as soon as possible.
Drawn into a whirlwind of intrigue, shifting alliances, and ambitions, Lady Blythe must be careful whom she trusts. Her fortune, her future, and her very life are at stake. Those who appear to be adversaries may turn out to be allies--and those who pretend friendship may be enemies.
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about the author
Laura Frantz is passionate about all things historical, particularly the 18th-century, and writes her manuscripts in longhand first. Her stories often incorporate Scottish themes that reflect her family heritage. She is a direct descendant of George Hume, Wedderburn Castle, Berwickshire, Scotland, who was exiled to the American colonies for his role in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, settled in Virginia, and is credited with teaching George Washington surveying in the years 1748-1750. Frantz lives and writes in a log cabin in the heart of Kentucky. According to Publishers Weekly, "Frantz has done her historical homework." With her signature attention to historical detail and emotional depth, she is represented by Janet Kobobel Grant, Literary Agent & Founder, Books & Such Literary Agency of Santa Rosa, California. Readers can find Laura Frantz at www.laurafrantz.net.
I do believe I'm going to make it a tradition to ring in the new year with a Laura Frantz novel (as I did in 2022 with A Heart Adrift)! That way, my first read of the year will always be my favorite! *winks* Nothing quite compares to a luscious historical romance by Laura Frantz, I doubt anything ever will!
What was your first read of 2023? Have you read anything by Laura Frantz? If so, which of her novels is your favorite? I'd love to hear all about it in the comments below!
yours in spirit and script,
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