Frightened by the prospect of an arranged marriage to an old man she dislikes, seventeen year old Mila flees her home in the palace of Prague in 1610. As the chancellor’s daughter, Mila has never been outside the palace unescorted and certainly not through the thief-infested forests outside the city. After handsome blacksmith’s son, Marc, rescues her from bandits, Mila falls hopelessly in love and begins to see that the rebellion brewing among the peasants is not without just cause.
Lions in the Garden, by Chelsea Luna, was aptly named as there were both literal and metaphorical lions in the garden. King Rudolf II kept lions caged within his palace gardens. And, to quote Marc, the peasants were like the lion in that “It’s angry and depraved and once it breaks free of its cage, all hell is going to break loose.” The peasants certainly would make all hell break loose when they rebelled, the question being whether they would end up caged again afterwards.
I enjoyed Lions in the Garden. The setting, the plot, the characters, and the romance all built to a dramatic climax that begs for a sequel. Kidnappings and murders, engagements and weddings, prison sentences and daring escapes all added to the intrigue. The fact that it is based—loosely, that is—on history, adds to the authenticity.
The setting was well-done. The characters traveled across seventeenth century Prague, stopping at various monuments that are still present in the city today—Saint Vitus Cathedral, the astronomical clock, and the palace itself, to name a few. Each location was described in relative detail, without alienating the story. Because of this book, I would like to visit Prague someday.
The romance needs a few words. Mila was determined and brave; a little naïve at first, but she learned and grew. Marc, on the other hand, knew, or a least suspected, much of what the people of the city suffered, although he also needed to grow a little. I immediately liked both characters and wished they could marry, despite the dramatic difference in social status. What I did not like was that it was basically a love-at-fist-sight romance, meaning, it is unrealistic for them to have a deep love-trust relationship after knowing each other for a few hours, in spite of how much they sacrificed for each other. The physical attraction was present, and they were touching hands, hair, and torsos by the end of their second meeting, though neither they nor any of the other characters slept together. But Marc and Mila ultimately knew very little of each other’s character, desires, or life-story even as they were willing to risk all to continue a doomed romance. It frustrated me.
Other than that, I enjoyed the book very much. And the characters were very sweet to watch together. I would recommend this book to teens who enjoy a good romance in a historical setting.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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