We are taken to France during the reign of Louis XIII and the dominating Cardinal Richelieu. An infamous character in the history of France, Richelieu has often been portrayed as a ruthless man intent on ruling the country by controlling the king. In The Cardinalís Heir by Jaki Demarest, we find Richelieu is ruthless, but he longs to keep France free of her enemies. As his death becomes imminent, he appeals to his niece, Francoise Marguerite de Palis, to protect all the good heís done from the vultures who are circling.
Francoise canít believe her uncle is dead. Vowing revenge, she sets about using all her assets to find the persons responsible. For years, she has presented herself as the reclusive and pathetic wife of the Comte de Palis. The Kingís courtiers are willing to allow her entrance to their world because she amuses them. They have never known she uses their amusement to gather information for her uncle. She is the head of the Cardinalís Eyes, an intricate network of spies, Richelieu had used to keep peace in the country. There is a long list of people who wanted the Cardinal dead, and Francoise must use her network to find the real culprit.
Captain of the Kingís Musketeers, Jean de Treville, has always been a rival of the Cardinal. Their mutual enmity gave rise to a mutual respect. Jean is saddened by Richelieuís death. His unwanted attraction to Francoise plays with his honor because sheís a married woman, and he has never touched one before. All the old alliances are gone when the Cardinal dies, and the leader of his spy network is revealed to de Treville. He has to learn to overlook his mistrust of Francoise to help find who is killing some of the most powerful men in France.
Francoise is revealing many of her hidden talents to de Treville. Her shape shifting, magic and ability to use a sword makes her an intriguing woman in a court full of men. As she searches for the killers, she finds her heart and mind betraying her with a man she isnít sure she can trust.
Using an interesting alternate view of France and the reign of Louis XIII, Ms. Demarest shows us a different version of Richelieu, one of the most hated men in history. Francoise is certainly an unusual female character. Sheís strong and capable of defending herself if she needs to. Her unhappy marriage doesnít give her an encouraging view of love or men. Jean de Treville is an honorable man caught up in a situation beyond his control. Unfortunately, his personality isnít examined in depth enough to allow the reader to make any sort of connection with him. His characterization is rather flat. Andre, Francoiseís best friend, is a far more interesting character. Even though he is a secondary character, he tends to overpower de Trevilleís character. The use of magic and shape shifting seems unnecessary to the story. The purpose or use of magic wasnít explained enough to make it relevant.
The Cardinalís Heir is an action adventure romance with an emphasis on the action. If youíre looking for court intrigue, dashing sword fighting and star crossed love, this is the book for you.