Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Review: Lions in the Garden by Chelsea Luna

Lions in the Garden 
by Chelsea Luna
Series:  The Uprising #1
Pub. Date:  March 1, 2016
Publisher:  Kensington
Pages:  236
Format:  eARC
Source:  NetGalley

My Rating:  
Sultry Scale:

Prague, 1610

Ludmila Novakova--Mila--has barely set foot outside Prague Castle in her seventeen years. But with the choice between braving the bandits and wolves of Bohemia's uneasy roads or being married off to a disgusting old baron, she's taken what she can carry and fled. 

Escape won't be easy. Even Mila has heard the rumors of a rebellion coming against the court. The peasants are hungry. The king hasn't been seen in months. Mila's father, the High Chancellor, is well known and well hated. 

But Mila can't sit behind a stone wall and let fear force her into a life of silk gowns and certain misery. Her mother's death has taught her that much. She has one ally: Marc, the son of the blacksmith. A commoner, a Protestant--and perhaps a traitor, too. But the farther she gets from the castle, the more lies she uncovers, unraveling everything she thought she knew. And the harder it is to tell friend from enemy--and wrong from right . . .

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I loved that the setting was Prague/Bohemia as it gave me a nice change of pace from the more prevalent England/Scotland settings. I would also say this one focuses a tad more on the historical fiction side than historical romance - but there is still some (clean) romance in there for those that need it in their stories. This was also one of those books that had me googling things as I read. I don't recall learning much about Prague in school, so it made me curious about its history and the people featured in the story.

So for those that are familiar with the setting, this story takes place in the early 17th Century during the time of King and Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. This was a time of conflict between the Catholic Church and Protestants, and preceded the Thirty Years War. (See, I learned something!)

Our heroine is Lady Ludmila Novakova. Mila's father is high chancellor to King Rudolf, and her mother was the king's close personal friend. As Mila has been living safe behind the protected walls of the castle, she is not really aware of the struggle outside the castle walls. All she knows of the Catholic-Protestant conflict is the anti-Protestant rumors she hears around the castle. So at a naive seventeen years old, Mila is about to embark on a very fast and eye-opening coming of age in the midst of a revolution. She will have the blindfold ripped off and many things she thought about her life and past will change. I quite liked Mila even though I didn't have a super strong emotional connection to her character. As I said, she was naive, but she was also courageous. I think I will enjoy following the rest of her story throughout the series.

We first meet Mila as she is fleeing Prague in fear that her father has betrothed her to an old man. When attacked by vagabonds, Mila is saved by our hero, Marc Sykora. Marc is the handsome second son of the village blacksmith, and also a rebel Protestant. There is an instant connection between the couple, but I wouldn't call this one insta-love. Yes, there was an immediate attraction and flirtation, but the romance wasn't at the forefront of the story so it didn't seem over the top fast if you know what I mean. Anywho, Marc is a great underdog, both handsome and honorable. I had more of a connection to his character than I did Mila, but I think that's because I didn't like the way she treated him sometimes, particularly when it seemed obvious to me that he was trying to help her and she didn't realize that (yet).

So the real focus of this story is the Catholic-Protestant conflict, which was very interesting. I'm not sure how much of this book was fiction or fact, but I found everything to be quite believable. There was a good amount of court intrigue, betrayal and scandal - with a good dose of the underdogs to root for. I am used to reading about the Catholic-Protestant conflict in Tudor and Elizabethan-era books set in England, so this was a really nice change of perspective.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 4+ stars / 1 flame.

View all my reviews

About the Author

So after I finished the book, I saw the author bio at the end and realized we had something in common... both profession (attorney) and alma mater!  Go Vols!  Even similar majors (psychology v. sociology w/ criminal justice concentrations)... pretty much useless unless you go to law school.  So here's to supporting my fellow Volunteer attorney.

Chelsea Luna received a Juris Doctor from New York Law School and a BA in sociology, with a concentration in criminal justice, from the University of Tennessee. Chelsea is also the author of the Amazon bestselling New England Witch Chronicles, a young adult paranormal romance series comprising four novels. Chelsea is an attorney and lives in Tennessee with her son. For more information, visit her website at www.chelsealunaauthor.com.