A leopard can/can’t change its spots – delete as applicable.
Publisher: Sphere (Little Brown)
First published: 1992
Date Reviewed: 28th September 2014
Renard has been in Antioch for a good few years, and as those years draw to an end he meets Olwen. He’s had dancing girls before, but Olwen sets him on fire and when she tells him she’s pregnant and needs to return with him, he allows it as his betrothed at home does not interest him. But Olwen’s after power as always, and when Renard finds he does like Elene, she moves on to his rival – a man who wants Renard’s lands far more than he wants to fight in the war between Stephen and Matilda.
The Leopard Unleashed is a solid offering from Chadwick, the last of her purely fictional works (the others being The Wild Hunt and The Running Vixen) with a story that may not have you staying up all night but will definitely have you reading until the end.
The editing isn’t so good; there are the usual errors and the usual sudden leaps in time that can be disappointing, however in this case they are particularly disappointing because they come at times such as a major disagreement or where an illustration of chemistry is needed. Instead of a continuation the issues are worked out off the page with simply a sentence or two to summarise and whilst in the case of Renard and Olwen’s affair it later makes sense, other times it does not.
This said the structure of the story overall is good. This book is one in which Chadwick concludes the story at the end of the story (sometimes books are continued passed their natural conclusion) and the balance between war and romance works well. Whilst Chadwick writes excellent scenes in the bedroom that for the most part further the development of the characters, The Leopard Unleashed contains few but still manages to show the characters well. The book is shorter for it, and it could be said that the structure is better, too. The book is certainly a romance but the rivalry strong. This doesn’t mean everything is clear, however – you will need to keep your wits about you as you read, not only because there are a few names repeated but because there are a few battles fought, numerous occasions where the men are waiting for war or entrenched in war, and there are various reasons for all of them. Indeed Chadwick’s book offers the reader a good reminder that whilst the royals might have been fighting for the kingdom, and their subjects chose sides and fought with them, as always local feuds can be more important.
As always, as expected, the characters are extremely well written and development. If Chadwick wants you to feel for a character you will, and she provides enough narrative for the rivals that whilst you won’t be able to say they are particularly good people, you can see how with a simple switch of view, the story could just as well have been able them. Chadwick suggests who is good and who is bad, but reminds you that it’s not quite as simple as that when heritage, proclamations, and royalty are concerned. Also as expected, the chemistry is excellent, the dialogue fun, informative, and believable, and the historical details abundant. Being about a fictional family, you know much of the history is made up, simply woven into the factual history, but (or ‘and’, depending on your thoughts) it doesn’t matter a jot.
The book may not be thrilling as, for example, the later Lords Of The White Castle that aimed for the reader to be riding full pelt with the horses, but there is a whole lot to like in The Leopard Unleashed.
Yet despite the pace still, when unleashed, the leopard bites, and feel free to read into this statement both the expected might of war and innuendo because both are intended. It’s not going to be your favourite Chadwick, but you’re going to have a whale of a time regardless, forget the fact that there are no whales in the book.
September 29, 2014, 6:53 am
I read it long ago, good days
September 29, 2014, 6:11 pm
Sounds like this is not the one to start with but I would like to read something by Chadwick.
September 29, 2014, 8:59 pm
I love Elizabeth Chadwick but haven’t read this one yet. I’m glad you found a lot to like about it even if it’s not one of her best books.