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At the King's Command: The Tudor Rose Trilogy    by Susan Wiggs order for
At the King's Command
by Susan Wiggs
Order:  USA  Can
Mira, 2009 (1994)
Paperback, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

After stealing away for the afternoon to spend time with a band of gypsies, young Juliana Romanov watches in horror as her entire family is brutally butchered and their sprawling palace put to the torch. The only survivor of the carnage is Juliana's faithful wind hound Pavlo. For the next five years, Juliana remains in hiding among her gypsy protectors and learns their ways. Never far from her mind is her vow to return to her Russian homeland and avenge her family. Eventually she finds herself in England, outside the royal palace and about to steal a nobleman's high spirited horse.

Stephen de Lacey is not about to allow a gypsy, and a female to boot, to best him. His plan to send the thieving little witch to Newgate is however thwarted by the malicious whims of his sovereign, King Henry. Angered that the recalcitrant baron has repeatedly refused to follow his royal decree and re-marry, and amused at the horse thief's insistence that she is a Russian princess, Henry orders de Lacey to marry her forthwith. Stephen's household is quick to embrace Juliana and her kind, forthright and industrious ways but her husband vows to keep her at arm's length. His disdain initially suits Juliana for she fully intends to exploit her new status as a baron's wife to return to her homeland. As the months pass and she discovers the real cause of Stephen's brittle and foreboding nature, she must re-evaluate her plans. But when a traitor's political machinations deliver her enemy to her doorstep, Juliana and Stephen's hard-won love may not survive.

Originally published in 1994 under the title Circle in the Water, this nicely re-packaged edition offers a spunky and determined heroine in Juliana, a compelling and multi-layered plotline with nice touches of royal intrigue, as well as an enjoyable assortment of secondary players. Stephen's inflexible bitterness drags on overly long, but when Juliana is threatened, he finally realises all that he could lose. Whether writing contemporary or historical romances Susan Wiggs knows how to spin a convincing and emotional tale.

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