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Nicole of Prie Mer [Paperback]
by Robin Hardy

One hundred years after the Great Surchatain Roman of Lystra, the beautiful Chataine Renee meets Nicole, the 17-year-old daughter of a humble tailor, and insists she come to the palace at Westford. Nicole is unprepared for the sophistication and treachery of palace life, but her father has decreed that she shall not come home without a rich or noble husband.

Volume 1 of The Latter Annals of Lystra

Westford Press (November 2003). Trade paperback. 284 pages.

Author Web Site(s): http://www.robinhardy.com

Check out reviews at Amazon.com of Nicole of Prie Mer.

Edenstar Review:
Nicole of Prie Mer arrives at the palace of Westford at the invitation of the Chataine (princess) Renee. Nicole’s mission: to find a suitable husband before anyone besides the Chataine realizes she is not of noble birth, but merely the daughter of a humble tailor. For Renee it’s an amusing diversion, but for Nicole it’s an opportunity for a better future.

In a rare twist that happens only in fiction, Nicole is happily married within two days. Her new husband, Ares, is commander of Westford’s soldiers and an honorable man whose disfigured face has repelled prior courtship prospects. She confesses the secret of her background to him and to the court, all is forgiven, and it looks as though we’ve reached the happy ending in the first few chapters.

But wait, there’s more. Two princes from a neighboring country come to the palace at Westford, the elder to seek an alliance through marriage to the Chataine Renee. Even though Nicole is now married, the younger prince becomes smitten with her, and diplomatic havoc ensues. As it becomes clear that the princes’ intentions are not what they claim, Nicole is drawn into a delicious package of court intrigue and espionage, abduction and rescue. With several unexpected twists, the story gallops on to a surprising and satisfying ending.

While Nicole of Prie Mer is not fantasy per se, its medieval setting should appeal to readers of fantasy. Author Robin Hardy writes with an enthusiasm and vitality that lovingly exaggerates conventions of the romance genre, such as the high-speed courtship between Nicole and Ares. The heroic Ares is not just a little heroic; he scales impossible vertical walls to rescue his beloved bride from the evil prince. Nicole’s preoccupation with pretty dresses and her lack thereof (she’s the daughter of a humble tailor, after all) turns comical when she becomes the recipient of more gowns than her quarters can accommodate, and she begins showering them on everyone around her.

In keeping with the exuberant style of the narrative, Nicole of Prie Mer does include numerous sexual references. At times I felt that these references went a bit too far, though most were oblique enough to go over the heads of younger readers. Still, parents may wish to read the book for themselves to determine its appropriateness for their family.

The Christian themes in Nicole of Prie Mer are generally understated, although for a time Nicole takes refuge at a convent and assumes the role of a nun. For the most part the novel avoids obvious religious themes, instead illustrating a Christian worldview through themes of honor, respect, loyalty and serving others.

I enjoyed the witty style of Nicole of Prie Mer, and look forward to the sequel, Ares of Westford. Readers who are just discovering author Robin Hardy will be delighted to learn she has several other novels, including a trilogy called The Annals of Lystra that chronicles early heroes of Westford. Nicole of Prie Mer offers a lively introduction to a new series, The Latter Annals of Lystra. Recommended.

Editor's note: Author Robin Hardy responds: "Regarding the sexual references, you might be interested in the letter I got from a reader who was highly offended by them (and my reply to her): http://www.robinhardy.com."

Reviewed August 6, 2004 for Edenstar by Cheryl Bader.

Product Code: 1202
ISBN: 0974582905

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