Historical Romance Review: The Golden Sovereigns by Jocelyn Carew

The Golden Sovereigns, Jocelyn Carew, Avon, 1976, Charles Geer cover art

“There was a time Mark, when I would have given my soul for such cherishing… But I lost my soul for much, much less.”



4 1/2 stars

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Book

The Golden Sovereigns is unlike any bodice ripper I’ve ever read. It’s very difficult to rate or categorize as it defies genre conventions. Jocelyn Carew is an absolutely skillful writer to make me enjoy a book where the heroine, Carmody, doesn’t meet her hero until page 270 of this 404-page epic. This is the kind of bodice ripper where the heroine’s journey is the real tale, however, the hero is not a mere prize she wins at the end; he’s a balm to heal her damaged soul.

The Plot

Our story begins in late 17th century England. Carmody Petrie is in love with Waldo, who’s a no-good rogue. She engages in some heavy petting with him, but she knows better than to give in to his caresses despite her body’s urges:

“A new stirring, of springs moving deep inside her, a well of emotion she had never dreamed of had been uncovered. When Waldo had laid impertinent hands on her, she had felt a moving, rising, betraying response. Her own body–if she did not carefully govern it–might well turn traitor!”

That certainly brought me to attention. I was ready to enjoy a bawdy, lust romp. But The Golden Sovereigns isn’t that at all.

Waldo steals Carmody’s dowry & has no intention of marrying her; he’s got another, a wealthier woman in mind. Then her young brother Ralph gambles their inheritance away to the Duke of Monmouth. Carmody goes to the Duke and, with him, finds her first tragic love affair.

Awakened into passion by the Duke of Monmouth, who is written here as a fascinating, tragically doomed character, Carmody is the only person who stays with him after his final defeat at Sedgemoor & he’s declared a criminal. In a stunning betrayal, Monmouth abandons Carmody to make his escape, that bastard! Well, history shows he gets his just desserts in the end!

Carmody assumes a false name, is captured, tried for treason, & sentenced to penal servitude in the West Indies for life.

She is given into employ to a multifaceted man who is in mourning for his dead wife. He’s cruel to Carmody, but he never forces her, and they don’t engage in sex. In time, she gets her freedom, but it’s temporary as more trials and tribulations face Carmody. She’s forced into marriage and finds herself in the American colonies.

Finally, We Meet the Hero

At long last, we meet the hero, Mark Tennant, a truly nice guy who offers Carmody a different world she’s known: one filled with joy & love. Her response is to him is heartbreaking: “There was a time Mark, when I would have given my soul for such cherishing… But I lost my soul for much, much less.”

The most unusual aspect of this bodice ripper is that Carmody and Mark don’t consummate their relationship, at least not when the book takes place. Carmody and Mark’s relationship transcends physical love. Theirs is a meeting of spirit that is paramount to the meeting of flesh.

Final Analysis of The Golden Sovereigns

I am not a patient reader. Although I adore these old romances, the older I get the more difficult they are to read, as the long stories with tiny fonts usually lead to my interest waning (ADHD is no fun) and I’ll put the book down, forgetting I ever started it. So many half-finished books!

There have been other romances where I have been less forgiving about the same flaws that The Golden Sovereigns has (ie, meeting the hero more than halfway through the book), but somehow Carew makes the journey worthwhile.

This was a beautifully written, mature bodice ripper, very philosophical in nature, delving into the depths of humanity. Unfortunately, because there is so little of the hero with very little interaction between Carmody and Mark and a much bigger emphasis on the villain this book fell short of perfection. I still consider this a great and unexpected piece of fiction, but it lacked a little oomph at the end to make it perfect.

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