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Sherwood Smith
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Crown and Court Duet Book 1

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Who recommends: JW, Edith, Rebekah, Preeti, Catie, Barbara, Danielle, Margaret
Who discommends:

Far and away Smith's best yet! A simple plot structure - the main character is captured and spends most of the book trying to get home - but subtle and complex enough to stay interesting. As usual for Smith, the main characters (and surrounding ones) were very likeable and close to your heart. It's a stronger, more intense story than the "Wren" books, and Smith sure isn't afraid to hurt her characters.--Rebekah

And I finally read Sherwood Smith's CROWN DUEL and COURT DUEL. I enjoyed them, though not unto keeper status. The first book is about a young "barefoot countess" who leads a revolt against a despotic king. The second is about her future in the new court that is forming.

I love the way Meliara's adversary, the Marquis of Shevraeth, is characterized as inscrutable and sort of omniscient. Very much reminded me of Heyer's Duke of Avon as he might have been as a young man (but not as he was in THE BLACK MOTH.) This headstrong girl frequently got on my nerves with her wilfull behaviour but Smith grows her up very satisfyingly through the course of the two books.--Preeti

I have to agree with pretty much all you said about these books. Like you, I found the heroine's stubborness (which I attributed to immaturity) annoying. I also really liked how the hero was trying to work within the system to effect change. I found the first book Scarlet Pimpernelish, although I think your comparison to Avon is apt, too. I really liked the hero and wish we could have gotten to know him a bit more (i.e. gotten his POV).--Edith

You're right, my thoughts always turn to Avon whenever I come across an elegant aristocrat. But with his reputation as a pleasure-seeking wastrel courtier, Shevraeth has more than a little Pimpernel in him.

Another thing I liked about the Duel books is that they weren't set in some amorphous pseudo-medieval fantasy setting. There are clear hints that this is an alien world, there are almost throw-away mentions of gates between worlds and star drawings in caves and other stuff like that. Just those little hints added a lot of richness to the background of the story for me.--Preeti

Well, darn it, I never should have read this one without COURT DUEL. I swear, if there's romance, it happens in COURT DUEL. CROWN DUEL starts with the death of Meliara's father, who tells her and her brother to fight the wicked king, who's setting up to do wicked deeds. So they start off playing guerilla and Robin Hood against the king's henchmen. One of whom is the very entertaining and fascintating Marquis. What a wonderful character. But while I can see there is probably a romance in COURT DUEL, this one ends with h/h parted, she going back home to stabilize things, he back to the court where her brother is. A good book but incomplete without COURT.--Barbara (21 Aug 99)

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