Friday, June 8, 2012

Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan

Release date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Harcourt
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Netgalley
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Eliza dreams of being a playwright for the king’s theater, where she will be admired for her witty turns of phrase rather than her father’s wealth. Beth is beautiful as the day but poor as a church mouse, so she must marry well, despite her love for her childhood sweetheart. Zabby comes to England to further her scientific studies—and ends up saving the life of King Charles II. Soon her friendship with him becomes a dangerous, impossible obsession. Though she knows she should stay away from the young, handsome king, Charles has a new bride, Queen Catherine, and a queen needs ladies in waiting. And so Zabby, Beth, and Eliza, three Elizabeths from very different walks of life, find themselves at the center of the most scandal-filled court that England has ever seen.

Going into Ladies in Waiting, I really am not sure what I expected. Perhaps something lighter and less, dare I say it, philosophical. I imagined it would be a typical fluffy book where all of the girls got their happy endings no matter what hoops the real world had to jump to in order to get there. Instead, I got a book that had a grip on reality. One that realized life doesn't just always work out perfectly with a little bow on top, one that knows that the world goes on even after the one true love is gone. While I didn't love it, and may not even recommend it very highly, I was pleasantly surprised by Ladies in Waiting.

We follow the "three Elizabeths", girls who have come to the court of King James II to serve as ladies in waiting to his queen, Catherine. Though they share a given name, that is the only thing similar about them. Eliza is well off, but not noble, and dreams of becoming a famous and revered playwright, in the vein on Shakespeare. Beth is as poor as they come, but breathtakingly beautiful, a gift that her disfigured mother uses to her own advantage. And Zaby was raised a scholar out of the continent and comes to court by saving the king's life. We see the ups and downs of their time in court, see them fall in love, and weasel their way out of trouble.

One of the saving graces of Ladies in Waiting was the characters, especially Zaby and Eliza. While I didn't particularly like what Zaby was doing, I admired her spunk, brains, and her readiness to go after what she wanted. It was the same with Eliza. I found her downright hilarious and loved that she threw caution and convention into the wind to pursue her dream.

I enjoyed the court setting and reading about a king whom I've never seen depicted in fiction. I thought it was researched fairly well and the dialogue and writing flowed well and seemed to fit for the time period. It was well-paced; altogether technically a good read.

Now, back to what I mentioned before, the thing I really admired and enjoyed about the book was that it didn't hold back. There was no just because happy ending. Things worked out for some characters and didn't for others, and it didn't matter if they were the "good guys" or the "bad guys". Honestly, I don't see that very often and I thought it was a breath of fresh air in the young adult market, though I wouldn't really tout this book as very young adult. It's definitely more on the adult side of the genre, just based on content.

Risk a paper cut? If you like court intrigue and airing the dirty underwear of royals, Ladies in Waiting could be just what you're looking for.

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