Review of IN THE MASTER'S BED by Blythe Gifford (see her website)
Harlequin Historical, September 2009
Jane de Weston has never been good at being a woman. When her sister suffers from a difficult labor, she finally has enough and runs away. Her plan, she'll head to Cambridge, enter a College, and become a King's clerk. Clerks see the world, make important decisions, and have power--something that no woman in 14th century England can hold on her own. As a bastard son of a king, she would have an unlimited future. As the daughter of the late King's disgraced mistress, she has nothing.
Jane's plans aren't exactly flawless. Her Latin isn't good enough to attract attention and she doesn't have much money. Only one master, Duncan, is willing to give her any attention at all, and Jane fears spending more time with him than she needs to--because being with Duncan makes her feel like a woman.
Still, Duncan's hostel is better than sleeping in a stable and Jane. As Little John, Jane studies her Latin, sings and parties with the guys, learns how badly and casually men often treat women, and schemes to bring herself to the King's attention. Except, how long can she keep her secret when her body wants to betray her?
Author Blythe Gifford creates an intriguing situation playing on the familiar woman-in-men's-clothing hook. I especially enjoyed the early part of this book, where Jane observed the world of men from the perspective of a female. For me, the story slowed down after Duncan finally discovered the truth. I would have preferred to see a deeper conflict, and more character growth as we moved toward the resolution. Still, Blythe Gifford's writing is strong, her characters interesting, and her handling of the setting convincing.
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