3.5 starsA bit syrupy sweet for my taste, but overall, a fun romp of a historical romance. This tale is set in 1526, when Francois I (King of France) has just been returned from being held by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of Spain. Charles and Francois don't see eye-to-eye on the Bourbon district, taken back by France in a recent war. But Charles isn't just letting Francois go; it's an exchange - Francois' 2 eldest sons (8 and 6 respectively) are to go to Spain under guard in Francois' place. Before agreeing to this, Francois had to sign an agreement to give Bourbon back, along with some trivial other conditions. Francois knows he can't just turn Bourbon over to Charles V, and so through-out the book, he's mourning the loss of his sons and relishing his freedom. It's a fine balance, and one that's not resolved at the end of this book.This book is really about Thomas St. Briac, a boyhood friend of Francois, and a man of property and nobility. Thomas doesn't try for favors from the king, and he's not all that comfortable at Court for too long; he's not into the politics and jockeying for position and favors. Francois and Thomas meet Aimee, our Heroine, near one of the king's hunting lodges in Nieull. Aimee's family lives nearby, and she loves to be outside and roam Nature. Her younger, blonde sister Honorine came to fetch her at their mother's request. But as usual, Aimee lingered... long enough to prevent the king and Thomas from getting a large stag they were hunting. Aimee is all opinions and stubborness, even though she's a delightful innocent. When the king and Thomas come upon her, they think she's a saucy wench out to seduce them, so they stop and chat. Except that during the chat, Aimee (who obviously doesn't recognize the king) makes many disparaging remarks about Francois, which causes Thomas to chuckle and Francois to become furious. In a huff, Francois rides off, leaving Thomas to deal with her. There's the instant-spark thing happening between Thomas and Aimee, and he quickly discovers that she's an innocent and had no true intentions for stopping them, other than saving the stag. Before he leaves, though, Thomas can't help giving Aimee a good and proper kissing, which leaves them both a bit breathless - Aimee because she's not been kissed like that before, and Thomas because he realizes his attraction to her is more than simple lust.That night, Aimee and her family travel into Nieull to meet the king. Luckily, the encounter Thomas first, who laughingly tells her family Aimee's encounter with the king earlier and suggests that she remain with him while the rest of her family is presented to the king. No need to cause a scene, after all. Aimee takes offense (she can be prickly), but Thomas soon has her laughing... so much so, that Aimee's "intended", a man older than her father, takes offense and make himself known to Thomas as Aimee's finance. Aimee has already gotten out of marrying the man once, but her mother is determined that her 18-year old daughter be settled. Meanwhile, the king takes a liking to Honorine, a lovely blonde - just his type. Before departing, Thomas tells Aimee that she should take Fate into her own hands and fight for what she wants.So when a note from the king for a Mademoiselle de Fleurance arrives later that evening asking the lovely Mademoiselle to join his royal court and entourage to Chambord, Aimee seizes it as her opportunity for escape. She knows it's intended for Honorine, but she decides it's a sign from God - a way to get out of the house (as her mother wanted for her) and way to escape marriage. So Aimee packs her bags secretly and sneaks away. She's not sure how to keep up the farce, because she knows she has to stay away from the king as long as possible; but she's determined.Except, of course, Thomas discovers her. He's furious, but amused; he agrees to help her, but not to lie to the king for her. What ensues is a midnight tryst in a garden, where both Thomas and Aimee are attempting to hide their identities from the king, but end up in full-blown passion. But it doesn't take long for the king to discover her; rather than being angry, as she feared, the king is actually enchanted, thinking that Aimee wanted badly to join his court. When the king attempts to bed her, Thomas bursts into the room and announces that he wants to marry Aimee - with the king's permission, of course. Which is finally granted, saving Aimee from the king.And this is where it gets a bit dicey... Both Thomas and Aimee feel something more for one another, but neither is willing to admit it to themselves much less to one another. So we enter a long stretch of watching them fight and fuss and steam and stew, because Aimee thinks Thomas is only being noble and protecting her, while he continues to pursue his affair with a married woman at court. Thomas thinks that Aimee has no feelings at all for him, which frustrates him to no end, because he's too noble to force her, and yet he's drawn to her and her endless schemes. When a mother-daughter pair shows up, claiming that Thomas is already affianced, based on an agreement between parents from long ago, Thomas begs Aimee to keep up the "farce" to scare them away. (Even the king is amused, but he tells Thomas he must handle it himself.)So, of course, Thomas and Aimee end up married. And really, that's only 1/3 of the book! There are numerous scenes where Thomas has to rescue Aimee from something or someone, always showing up just in the nick-of-time. And lots of Aimee's wild schemes.The HEA is fun and full of adventure, but as I said, it's a bit syrupy sweet and pushes the bounds of what the king would probably do if Thomas went against his orders in the way that he does. But hey, it's a romance, right?