The second Twelve Kingdoms book, Tears of the Rose, follows Ami, the youngest of three princesses, as she deals with the loss of her husband, her pregnancy, and a growing realization that she may have been nothing but a tool or object to almost everyone in her life.
I think this books is just about on par with the first book, doing some things better while others I just didn't enjoy as much. And the main offender in this way is, I suppose the main character. I find Ami interesting, as she's almost a deconstruction of the stereotypical princess, wearing pretty dresses and waiting for her prince charming and being a chosen one of beauty and love. But I didn't really *like* her that much. Because with her life and her place in society, she became what it made sense for her to be - a well-meaning but weak and somewhat selfish person. She's wonderfully flawed, but sometimes infuriating to read.
But the book itself? I thought the pacing and flow were even better than the first. And since I'm a sucker for political fantasy, the lessons she eventually learned and came to use in this book were even more interesting to me than the shapeshifting magic from the first book.
I got the factors complicating the relationship in the first book and they worked well in that context, but I found this one to be even better. Her recent bereavement means that when a new love comes knocking - and it's not in the form of a prince charming on a white horse, etc. etc., she understandably has trouble seeing it. And once she admits to herself what she needs, she also makes an important step in that Hugh had to this point been presented as almost wholly faultless and perfect. And let's be fair, he was a very good man. But like Ami, he was young, and she comes to realize that in a way, the perfection and white-knight ideal was actually stifling to them both and that happiness doesn't have to be found only in that package. Good for her. :)
I also really liked her love interest. He was similar to Rafe from the first book, but more formal and more aloof, which I think was probably a good call with the particular heroine of this one.
I love the political play than rounds out this book, and the circumstances around the birth. It ends with a cliffhanger that makes me very glad the third book came out as I was reading this one. All in all, a lovely and enjoyable continuation. Just be warned you might want to shout some sense into Ami at times during this book.