Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds

The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds is historical fiction, with a fair amount of action and adventure. Note: I'm going to describe the whole plot here -- I don't think this story would be diminished by reading a spoilery review, but if you're sensitive about that sort of thing, you may want to skip to the final paragraph. I won't be offended.

Unfortunately, Luc is born with only one ear. He grows up as the son of a cruel and bitter olive grower. Fortunately, Luc finds his way to the home of Pons, Mattie, and the lovely Beatrice, who welcome him with warmth and kindness. Unfortunately, Luc is captured by Saracen pirates one day, and is taken as a slave to northern Africa. Fortunately, he catches the eye of a scholarly gentleman, who takes him in and treats him well, even teaching him to read. Unfortunately, the old gentleman is nearing the end of his life. Fortunately, Beatrice is determined never to give up hope of Luc's return. Unfortunately, she is the daughter of a disgraced nobleman who was killed before her very eyes by Count de Muguet. Fortunately, the old count is now dead, and his son is a more kind and just man. He takes an interest in Beatrice, restoring her to her father's lands when he discovers that her father was killed unjustly -- and he takes up the search for Luc, since it means so much to her. Unfortunately, it's not an easy thing to find a slave in northern Africa, even one with just one ear . . . especially if the slave's master does not want the slave to be found. Fortunately, Luc eventually hears of the search for him. He has promised to stay with his master until the end of the master's life, but when the man dies, Luc returns to Beatrice, Pons, and Mattie. There, he discovers that the cruel olive grower was not his biological father: Luc was the second son of Count Muguet, sent away because the count could not bear to raise a son with such an obvious physical imperfection. Now Luc and Beatrice are together once again, both returned to their proper positions. Luc's life has been full of ups and downs . . . but does that really make him The Unfortunate Son?

I liked this book, but I didn't love it. The dialogue seemed a little stilted, to me -- a stylistic choice that might not bother other readers. There is also some ambiguity at the story's end, and I found myself wishing for more concrete answers about certain characters and relationships. I also felt a sense of distance between myself as the reader, and the characters in the story. I never really connected emotionally with any of them. Again, this could be more my fault than the fault of the book . . . so if the plot sounds intriguing, I would encourage you to pick it up and give it a try!

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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