Well, it turns out I really liked this book. I have to say that the ending did a lot to satisfy my need for more romance and add an extra half star to my overall rating.
This was an emotional, well-written book with depth and rich background. The characters were very likable, even though Hope was a courtesan and I usually have little love for them, and Robert was a strong, decisive, honorable and tortured hero, the kind I love to read about. Those two got married against their will by the King's orders and though the attraction was there from the first time, it took them a lot of time for the trust and caring to develop. I really appreciated that, since I always dislike plots that confuse lust with love and have the heroes unable to fight their attraction and jumping to bed before they're on a first name basis. The slow development of their feelings made their relationship seem all the more realistic and interesting. The whole story is deeply emotional, and we really get to know those two people and come to care for them. So, when the sweet ending came, it was almost swoon worthy.
On the other hand, it took way too long to get those two together. Almost one half of the book was spent just to lay the background and build the main characters, time that made the story seem too slow in the beginning. Also, for the most part, this seemed more like a historical novel than a romance per se; the focus seems to rest on the hero's past and its import in his present, rather than the romance. That alone was a bit disconcerting for me.
Still, I enjoyed reading it and never felt the urge to skim though it (which I sometimes do with more average novels). Readers who like their historical romances filled with rich period details, will probably appreciate this one. I'm definitely going to give Ms James another try and if the next book's about the young boy we saw in the end, I'll be sure to pick it up.ARC received by NetGalley