For his loyal and brave service as a knight in the Crusades, Thomas Lancaster is awarded the holding of Middlemound Castle, but the king has also decreed that he must marry the lady of the castle and the former lord's widow. Plagued by bad memories of his first marriage and riddled with guilt over a son he barely knows, it's not Thomas's preferred choice. There's also the complication of him being lovers with his best friend and first knight, Rowan, who he refuses to give up. However, the lady proves to be beautiful, sweet, and kind, everything his first wife wasn't. Not to mention, when she discovers his relationship with Rowan, she's far more accepting of it than he ever would have imagined.
Lady Gloriana Stewart was brutalized by her first husband, so when Thomas brings the news that her husband was killed in the Crusades, she doesn't mourn him. When Thomas also tells her that she is to marry him, Gloriana would rather not. But she's nothing if not loyal to both her people and her king. Thomas shows himself to be a kind and gentle husband and lover, which is far more than she could have hoped for. When she spies Thomas and Rowan in a moment of passion, she knows she should be appalled, but if anything, their relationship intrigues her. Although she is reluctant to admit it at first, she's attracted to both men, so she shyly insinuates herself into one of their sexual encounters, finding far more fulfillment than she ever could've dreamed of. But the one thing Gloriana wants more than anything is a baby to call her own, but after his first wife dying in childbirth, it's the one thing Thomas refuses to give her.
Their Lady Gloriana was my third read by Starla Kaye, and I ended up liking it better than her previous two books I read. This was probably owing in large part to the three main characters. While their characterizations still didn't dive as deep as I would have liked, they were more likable and relatable than the heroes and heroines of the other two books. Also, although the story, once again, had weaknesses, at least I felt like it mostly made sense by the end, so narratively it was a more entertaining read. Lastly the love scenes were more descriptive and generally more appealing. When all was said and done, I did enjoy it reasonably well, and would have liked to give the book at least four stars in regards to these three elements, but due to major shortcomings in the writing, which I'll explain in a moment, I felt the need to knock off an extra half-star.
Since this is a menage a trois romance, we have three main characters. First is Thomas, a lord who already has his own estate, but he's been away from home, fighting in the Crusades for years and has just returned. As a gift for being a loyal knight, the king has awarded him yet another estate, along with the widow of the former lord as a wife. For the last several months, he's been content in a relationship with his devoted first knight, Rowan, the only man he's ever loved. Between that and a less-than-satisfying first marriage, he isn't particularly excited by the prospect of marrying again, but after getting a look at Gloriana, the lady of the castle, he knows it will be no hardship. However, he has no intention of giving up his male consort either. Thomas lost his first wife in childbirth, and has a son he barely knows, since he's been away fighting for most of the boy's life. Now that he's back home, he wants his son back, but knows he's probably going to have to fight with his brother-in-law to get custody of the child. He also has no desire to have more children, something his new wife wants badly.
For a hardened warrior, I thought Thomas had an endearing softer side. He's always kind and gentle with Glori, loving her and giving her all the pleasure she's never known, while saving the rougher sex play for his times with Rowan. His relationship with Rowan is intense and passionate. Thomas is also very protective of both his wife and his lover. The only thing that really gave me pause is that he insists he doesn't want another child because of fears associated with his first wife dying in childbirth, but this never really rang true to me, because he didn't love his first wife and wasn't even at home when she died. We find out later that the real reason is because he's afraid he doesn't know how to be a good father, because of his own father's inattention. This made a lot more sense, so I wish the author had revealed this motivation sooner and followed his internal journey to overcoming his fears, rather than it being a somewhat magical thing that happened in the final pages of the story.
Next is Rowan, the illegitimate son of a duke, who was claimed by his father, but never really knew him. Instead, he spent all his life learning how to fight and hasn't experienced much softness. The author hints at possible abuse in his background very late in the story. If she wasn't going to go anywhere with it, though, I felt it would have been better to not mention it at all. Rowan has a rather legendary reputation with the ladies, but he's also known to sleep with men. No one, male or female, had captured his heart, though, until he met Thomas in battle. The pair saved each other's lives and became a whole lot more, finding much joy and passion in their coupling. Even though Thomas is the one described as being rather forbidding, I thought Rowan came off as the slightly more alpha of the two. His loyalty to Thomas is unparalleled. He turned down Thomas's offer to take over his other estate, preferring to stay with his commander and lover. Once Thomas is married to Glori, Rowan is very open to that relationship as well, and eventually falls for Glori, too. I liked Rowan almost as much as Thomas, but once again, there were elements of his characterization that were left until the end of the story when I felt they would have made him a richer, fuller character if integrated sooner.
Finally we have Gloriana, who all in the same day, finds out her first husband is dead and that she's expected to marry the man who brought her the news. She was badly abused by her husband, so she isn't at all the grieving widow. However, marrying again so quickly probably wouldn't have been her first choice, but she's loyal to her king and willing to do as she's commanded. Glori couldn't be more pleased when her new husband turns out to be an infinitely nicer person and a kind, gentle lover. The one thing she wants more than anything, though, is a child of her own, which is something that Thomas refuses to give her, but she won't give up trying to change his mind. When she accidentally discovers her husband in a compromising position with Rowan, she's more curious and intrigued than repulsed, and eventually finds her way into another of their love-making sessions, making it a threesome, and is surprised to greatly enjoy it. Glori is a sweet, kind heroine, loved by everyone around her, who has lots of love and passion to give to others. She's completely accepting of Thomas's son, and more than willing to raise him as her own, while she's also completely accepting of Thomas and Rowan's unconventional relationship. The only thing that really bothered me was that she's far more forward than most ladies of the time probably would have been and she comes to trust both Thomas and Rowan a little too quickly given all that she suffered at her first husband's hands. But otherwise, I liked her and thought she was a good heroine.
There are a number of issues I found with the story that dropped my star rating. First is that this is basically nothing more than a wallpaper historical. It has just enough history to establish a time period, but that's where is ends. No one in the story really behaves like they should for the era in which it's set. Glori is far too quick to talk back to her husband, while her servants act in ways that would have been considered impertinent for their station and likely would have gotten them dismissed at best. Thomas and Rowan are way more open about their relationship than they probably should have been, and some of the characters are way too accepting of it for the time. There's also tons of anachronistic language, and when used in love scenes (eg. "shoot his load," or "Do me! Do me now!") were particularly disconcerting. Just because I'm reading an erotic romance doesn't mean I want to leave my brain at the door. I know that there's always going to be some creative license taken, no matter what type of romance it is, but I'd like for it to at least remain true to the time period in most ways. I felt that the writing itself was somewhat sub-par, too, with lots of clumsily worded sentences that could have been smoothed out by a good editor to make them flow better. The last thing I took some issue with were the love scenes. While I admit they were exponentially better than the love scenes in the other two Starla Kaye books I read, they still didn't quite come up to scratch. This is mainly because, IMHO, crass language does not a sexy love scene make. I felt like the author relied far too much on frank, rough language in an attempt to titillate rather than making a more concerted effort at using things like body language and emotion to create sensual scenes that really sizzle.
While I've had some criticisms and freely admit to there being some truly eye-rolling moments, I did find a decent amount of enjoyment in Their Lady Gloriana. The relationships between the three main characters are tender, passionate, and heartfelt. The heroes were actually heroic and the heroine was sweet, making them all pretty likable. If there had been more attention to historical detail, smoother writing, less coarse language in the love scenes in favor of more genuine sensuality, and more interweaving of the characters' backstories into the narrative rather than leaving most of it to the last minute, this could have been a truly great read. However, with all of its weaknesses this was only slightly above average for me. With three so-so reads in a row from Starla Kaye, especially when all three were some of her top-rated books on GoodReads, I'm thinking that her writing may not be for me, so I doubt that I'll be actively seeking out more of her work.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including M/F and M/M interactions, as well as M/M/F and M/F/M menage, which some readers may find offensive.
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