The Carolus Rex series is set in a world in which James, Duke of Monmouth was recognized as the legitimate son of Charles II, the latter having married the Dukes mother while living in exile. Strongly Protestant in religion and reportedly possessing his royal fathers famous charm in full, King Charles III holds Englands loyalty and faces down though does not entirely eliminate the threat from diehard Catholic English lords. But the Stuart England of the widower King Henry IX must still contend with the revolution of 1789 in France and now in 1805 by the newly born Empire and its martial emperor Napoleon I and the threat from internal Catholic opponents also remains. The usurper Napoleon has broken the bonds between the two worlds that serve to sustain rightful kings and kingdoms, thus depriving himself of the benefit of the powers of that world and made this magical world the natural if secret ally of Stuart England. Thus our worlds Sarah Cunningham of Baltimore, Maryland of the independent United States of American finds that her transatlantic voyage to Great Britain has brought her not to the home of distant English relations but instead to Mooncoign House, home of Lady Roxbury and her doppelganger in this world. Andre Norton is generally considered a fantasy author; many of these works reflect her interest in history, as do her historical novels. Her collaborator and apparently the principal author of these books, Rosemary Edghill, has been writing since 1984, producing numerous fantasy, romance, and mystery novels under several pseudonyms. The two books constituting the series to date may be mildly diverting for the general reader of historical fictionbut are more likely to be of interest only to those students of the Napoleonic area who also enjoy fantasy and magic.
The story begins when the dying Marchioness of Roxbury magically summons an alternate self (Sarah Cunningham, an orphan from Maryland) to replace her, catapulting Sarah into a new world of intrigue and power plays and into an arranged marriage with the Duke of Wessex, who leads a double life as a spy for King Henry IX.
The setting is the Napoleonic Wars with the protagonist brought from our reality to another by her doppelganger in order to fight for freedom.
The book opens with Sarah Conyngham, Marchioness of Roxbury (a peer in her own right, apparently slightly more common in this world than in our own), dying of her own foolishness in getting soaked and spending another few hours enjoying herself rather than getting inside and getting warm and dry. The plot, like the plots of many good regency novels, involves a plot: specifically, a plot by an ambitious Catholic lord to prevent the Prince of Wales' marriage to the Danish (and Protestant) Princess Stephanie, and instead marry him to his niece, thus bringing England back into the Catholic fold. Prince Jamie is being encouraged by the Catholic plotters to resent the Danish betrothal and the Danish princess, and he also wants to have Adventures, specifically to go fight against the French--a prospect which naturally appalls the king, who doesn't have a spare heir handy. So in addition to forbidding any such hare-brained plans as joining the fighting, King Henry wants the Danish princess to have the right kind of social backing when she arrives, so that she won't become so socially isolated that Prince Jamie's resistance to the marriage gets popular support.
This book took me a while to get the hang of, largely because it's quite heavy on the Napoleonic-era history & politics, which is hard to read in 1-hour lunch break chunks. He & Sarah have to wed though neither wants to, and there's some confusion when he thinks she might also be a sort of spy for the king. I read this book because Alternative History is this month's book group theme.
This story is a historical romance/fiction set in an alternate history where Charles Stuart II (King of England) announces that the Duke on Monmouth is actually his legitimate heir and so the Stuart's continue to rein instead of James (brother to Charles and Catholic to boot) taking the throne. He, is busy leading a life of intrigue as a spy for the King during the time of war with France lead by Napoleon.
Ironically, this book is less violent than many of Norton's books--perhaps the need to conform (to some extent) with realism tempered the violence somewhat. Not to say there's no violence--just less than in Norton's other books.
Andre Norton published her first novel in 1934, and was the first woman to receive the Gandalf Grand Master Award from the World Science Fiction Society in 1977, and won the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) association in 1983. On February 20, 2005, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, which had earlier honored her with its Grand Master Award in 1983, announced the creation of the Andre Norton Award, to be given each year for an outstanding work of fantasy or science fiction for the young adult literature market, beginning in 2006. M. Cornwell and organizations such as Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Publishers Weekly, and Time, Andre Norton wrote novels for over 70 years.