Book Review of King of the Wood by Valerie Anand

Book Review by Georgia Francis

King of the Wood


Valerie Anand draws readers into this mysterious tale of a lesser-known religious cult, all the while masterfully capturing the chaos and passion of a turbulent time.

Stepping through time back to A.D 1100, the novel opens with the death of King William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror,  The audience are then taken back further to when as a new King, William Rufus is introduced to the young, Ralph des Aix, a fine Norman huntsmen and horsemen who is eager to win his knight’s fee from the King.

The King William Rufus embraces Ralph and is immediately taken by him but Ralph soon discovers that being the King’s favourite is complex and not always pleasant – although it is clear that the King cares deeply for Ralph, it is not without consequences.

For his longstanding service and loyalty, King Rufus rewards Ralph with what he has been holding out for; Ralph is offered the land of Chenna’s Tun. Many feel that the King has deliberately rundown the holdings of Chenna’s Tun and Ralph and his wife, Sybil of Fallowdene find themselves drawn  into the growing conflicts between the Norman court and the Saxon world of the New Forest.

Ralph becomes involved with the Saxon cult where in order to become  lord of his own manor Ralph learns that he must bear the ancient title; King of the Wood, with all its cryptic and barbaric responsibilities…a net of danger is cast over all

Valerie Anand is a fantastic novelist whose talent for bringing the past back to the present shines through in King of the Wood. An imaginative style of writing is observed throughout. It is full of mystery, danger and scandal: suspense that keeps the pages turning.

Although characterisation  develops slowly a deft descriptive hand pulls the reader into every scene. Exceptional praise should be given to how Anand handles the relationship between King Rufus and Ralph, thus exploring the nature of homosexual liaisons in the eleventh century and the consequences of the King’s open and honest actions.

Although at first, the novel appears full of unrelated subplots and characters who are just padding through the story, Anand skilfully pulls them all together, tying the loose ends, leading the reader towards that fateful day when the King was shot dead by one fruitful arrow.

Anand’s speculation of who shot the King is perfectly executed with valiKing of the Wood 3Ddated purpose – interesting and exciting. King of the Wood is a brilliant must-read historical novel and is once again available for readers everywhere to enjoy, thanks to Romaunce Books.

The Largest Baby in Ireland After the Famine

Book Review by Georgia FrancisLargest Baby in Ireland published by Romaunce Books

The Largest Baby in Ireland After the Famine

Author Anne Barnett grew up in a farming community just outside Belfast and draws upon this experience for The Largest Baby in Ireland After the Famine – a tale of love across the religious divide.

Felix Campbell is a Protestant farmer and a committed bachelor – he considers himself above the ‘likes of women and marriage’. That is, until Sarah-Ann, all colour and sway, marches across his dowdy path. Enchanted by her from the briefest of meetings Felix is eager to learn more about this ‘stranger woman’ who seems to invade his every waking thought as well as his dreams.

Sarah-Ann, a Catholic woman having lost her husband and raised a family of fourteen, feels that love has now passed her by. However, a chance second meeting with a drunken Felix lights that lost spark, and she too, can’t deny her attraction.

The budding relationship between a Protestant supposedly set in his ways and this Catholic woman with a colourful past triggers gossip and desires amongst the Protestant community and is a cause for all sorts of unexpected events.

Anne Barnett has written a truly honest and unsentimental account of a powerful love that attempts to defy the natural order of a settled community with differing religious beliefs.

Each of the characters is compelling, engaging and even comical. From the first page, Anne Barnett conveys wonderfully the surprise that Felix gradually feels of discovering that he is capable of such passionate emotions for another.  Fighting for a place in patriarchal Ireland, Sarah-Ann’s character is full of life – bold and bright, strong and ambitious, striving for her independence; she is an iconic female role within a beautifully historical piece of fiction.

This is a slow burning love story told through a third person narration, with subtle and smooth transitions into the lives of each character. It offers a wonderful insight, with beautiful descriptions into life in rural Ireland right around the time of World War 1 and depicting this important turning point in Irish History.

Maybe the story runs along a little too slowly, but it continues to be moving.   I was generally surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.  To me it seems  that The Largest Baby in Ireland After the Famine with its gentle blend of history and romance is a perfect bedtime read.

Romaunce is in the Air…..

Rediscovering Masterpieces of Romaunce

Our aim, if that’s not too bold, is to take you on a journey of discovery – reintroducing you to neglected and lost romance classics and introducing you to a world of exciting new authors

At Romaunce Books we take romance seriously and want to share with you our vision to illuminate, entertain and enrich the lives of our readers.

Why are we called Romaunce Books and what does Romaunce mean?

A Little History and a lot of Romaunce….

Romaunce is the Middle English word for romance, a language, which represented the resurgence of a written English following several centuries of dominance by Latin and French. By the 13th century Middle English was firmly established and coincided with the introduction from the continent of the Romaunce, a narrative verse form which completely transformed the existing fact-based English prose tradition.

The description of a Romaunce according to the Middle English Dictionary is:

A written narrative of the adventures of a knight, nobleman, king, or an important ecclesiastic, a chivalric romance; a tale of fictional or nugatory content as opposed to a factual account;

(a) romance with a royal protagonist;

(b) the source, real or alleged, of an English chivalric romance or verse narrative;

(c) a chivalric romance in English verse, the work actually being read or recited;

(d) an episode in a larger narrative work;

(e) a romance of unspecified content, but usually one designed principally for entertainment;.

The fourteenth century saw the emergence of the most enduring author of the early medieval period, Geoffrey Chaucer and his renowned work, The Canterbury Tales, whilst not totally a romaunce in spirit does definitely draw upon the established format.

There’s no doubt that the medieval period proved to be a rich seam of historic stories full of knights, kings and noblemen. It was the time of the Crusades, the War of the Roses, and characters as vivid and dramatic as Robin Hood, the Yorks and the Tudors. A period redolent of mystery, intrigue and fascination and all the ingredients for Romaunce!

A tradition echoed in our most celebrated and award winning books– The White Queen of Middleham and Sons of York by Lesley J Nickell and Walter and the Resurrection of G by TJ Armstrong

If you want to know how to pronounce our name it’s easy – Romaunce rhymes with ‘dance’


No wonder we call ourselves Romaunce Books, we know our history……

 However… what we really like is quality and we pride ourselves in selecting the best romantic fiction from all genres which is why you will find The Theory of Mind by Sanjida O’Connell, a Betty Trask Award winner and Kiss and Kin by Angela Lambert winner of the Romantic Novelist of the Year Award.

We’re interested to hear what our readers think and to stimulate discussion – so if you’d like to review one of our books, get in touch. We’re also to encourage new talent so do look at our submissions page if you have a book you want to publish.


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