This is a story of two people discovering things about themselves and each other. An historical romance set in the reign of Edward I, this is a book concerned with people far away from power and politics in many ways, though it does refer to some of families who have substantial wealth. Nicole Locke has written a number of books linked by the Warstone family, and a search for a particular Jewell which has enormous, if legendary, significance. This is very much a standalone book; nothing is mentioned of the previous novel until well into the book. It features a determined and resourceful young woman, Andreona, who has a plan to be reconciled with her family by an enormous act of bravery. There is a man, Malcolm, whose mission can not be ignored whatever the sacrifice it entails. The novel’s setting is of a harsh countryside, a journey, and people who have to make decisions. The possessions and conditions faced by the characters are historically accurate, and there has been research into the life of people which never interrupts the narrative but gives it a pleasing solidarity. It is most effective at drawing the reader into the story, to establishing interest into the fate of the characters most involved. This is a tremendous read of real feeling which I was very glad to have the opportunity to read and review.
As the book opens Andreona is keeping watch from a tower she has constructed with a group of women. The purpose of the careful and difficult construction is far more than accommodation; she has always had a difficult relationship with her father owing to her illegitimacy and his practice of acquiring money and property by any means. As she discusses with her lifelong friend Uracca, she wants to obtain his good opinion by presenting him with prisoners and their property. She is therefore pleased to see two men approaching who may well fall into the traps they have carefully laid for unwary travellers. Not everything goes to plan, however, and the two men are revealed as Malcolm, a fighter of some standing and experience, and his associate Finlay. After some tough revelations, it seems that Andreona and Malcolm must make decisions about what to attempt next as both know that they are facing enormous risks, not just for themselves, but for others that they care about.
Both Malcolm and Andreona have had difficult, if not impossible, backgrounds. These seem to be brutal times, and there are horrific incidents in both of their past lives which make it so difficult for them to trust anyone ever again. Drawn together by circumstance, these are conflicted characters whose memories may never allow them to be truly at peace. Any physical attraction they may feel for each other must be weighed against the loss of trust they have both experienced. They are also at enormous risk from those who are desperate to obtain what they may carry, an item so precious that people have died to find and keep it. This is a well written mature book with no easy answers, but a lot of realistic atmosphere. I recommend this as well as Locke’s other books as an enjoyable and enthralling read.
Margery of Lyon is known for her beauty in rural France 1297. It has always made her family protective of her, but she has tried to help them in her turn by sacrificing herself for money. When she encounters the powerful and wealthy Ian Warstone she knows that her life will never be the same, and could be very brief. Brought to Warstone fortress she and those around her are baffled by Ian’s plans for her, especially as he is becoming even more unpredictable. When she encounters the guard he has assigned to keep her in certain rooms, the silent Evrart, she notices the effect he has on her, and apparently she has on him. This is a relationship that is very bound by circumstances, which Nicole Locke describes with her usual flair.
This novel is full of the small details that make a story come to life. The history of the Warstone family has appeared in other books, and various characters have featured in connected novels, but this book undoubtedly works as a standalone novel which may well make the reader want to find out more. The characters in this book are well developed in this book, contrasting in their perspectives, strong within a powerful story. Nothing is straightforward in a world of secret plans and dysfunctional families, where adult sons have been brought up to hate rather than work together for the family’s ambitions. This is a novel with moments of tension and romance, physical descriptions and honesty. It makes much of a world of colours, the gardens and fields which are in contrast with the solid walls of an unforgiving fortress. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this enjoyable book.
The book opens with a frightened and overwhelmed Margery being forced to ride to the fortress in Ian’s train. Having inadvertently witnessed Ian threatening a woman she has been taken from her previous “protector” and brought to a very different existence. She is presented as Ian’s mistress, but he seems to have little interest in her beyond ensuring her strict captivity. When Evrart first glimpses her across a busy courtyard he is immediately struck by her beauty and vulnerability. When he is set to guard her in the rooms she has been allocated she is stunned by his physicality and his reluctance to speak, he is bitterly aware of Ian’s possible return from his secret mission and the possible consequences of his discovering any dereliction of duty. As the book progresses and changes take place in their relationship, other developments mean that potential changes will take place.
This book as with all of Locke’s novels is subtly written with various aspects of physical appearance and temperaments being explored. The setting, of a fortress, is central to the feeling of confinement and threat which adds to the idea of serious danger. I greatly enjoyed reading this book with its gradual revelations of character and the developments that take place between the main protagonists. It is a sensitively written book with hints of humour and threat carefully added. The research into the dress, food and much else is well done, yet never slows the narrative. I recommend this book to those who enjoy historical romance with a solid basis and excellent characters.
Severine is on the run with her two sons in France, 1297. A young woman, she is terrified of her husband catching up with her; Ian Warstone is from a notorious wealthy and powerful family. Both of his parents have schemed, terrorized and tortured their four sons, aiming to make them largely fearless and devoted to the cause of the family’s political and territorial advancement. Added to that is Ian’s own temperament, which at the time when Severine last saw him six years previously seemed to be getting dangerously unbalanced. Now Ian’s youngest brother, Balthus, has discovered where she is hiding with Clovis and Pepin, but he has a very different agenda from most of his family, and has been seeking the young woman for reasons of his own. As both Severine and Balthus battle their own demons and fears for the boys, can their difficult relationship ever reflect their true feelings, born in a silent glance so many years before?
This book appears in a series which concerns the Warstone family, of which I have read a previous story. I believe that this historical romance works as a standalone book, as the depth of the characters is so well developed and explained. This is a book which is powerful written with an eye to the lifestyle and setting of the time, but requiring little or no knowledge of political events or the general history of the time. This is a time of hand worked tapestries, swords and brute force, and healers such as Severine using natural remedies for even traumatic injuries. The previous loss of a hand means that Balthus is far more vulnerable than his physical appearance and lifelong training would suggest; the power to hurt and heal is equally divided between the two main characters. The boys are still young enough to be told that they must run, hide and be brave, regarding their lives as one of permanent hide and seek as they go from village to village. Severine worries that their natural curiosity is being overtaken by their Warstone blood, that the games they play are for adults with secret and brutal agendas. Balthus does not tell them that he is their uncle, and indeed keeps several secrets, partly to extend the time he can spend with the little family, especially the woman he has loved and finds increasingly attractive.
This is a novel that I enjoyed for its insights into difficult lives, as Severine faces the fear and despair over her husband that is sadly not confined to history. No one in this book is wholly good or bad, but the unseen Warstone parents do seem to exert a dominant hold over not only their own sons, but also potentially their grandsons if they are discovered. Each character as revealed in their thoughts and actions is nuanced, aware of the bigger picture as well as their own emotions. I also enjoyed the servants who appear on the edge of the two characters’ main drama, especially Henry, butcher and irrepressible companion who is largely unimpressed by Balthus’ status. The romance element is subtle, as both characters struggle to restrain their mutual attraction for their own reasons and assumptions. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book, and recommend it as a well written novel of romantic historical fiction.
This is the story of Cressida, who is seen in the year 1297 at large in England. She is a warrior, a weapon trained from childhood in the arts of war. This historical novel is in the genre of romance, and much of it concerns the relationship between Cressida and Eldric, a knight. This book is a powerful tale of two lives intertwined by faith and an attraction that goes beyond the usual expectations. As they explore the past, the events that they know of and some that they can only guess at, they exchange stories of brutality and worse; this is in no way a courtship of delicate manners but a physical narrative of several differences. Revealing events over a few days with implications from the past, this is a book of intensity in its descriptions of a woman and a man in close proximity. The writing is lively and vivid, with such clever descriptions that it is easy to visualise the woman and man and their intimate setting. Their situation, it soon transpires, has far reaching implications not only for their own lives, but also the fate of many others. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this unusual historical romance.
The book opens with Cressida seeking a sight of her employer who she identifies as her father. She is a younger woman who has talents best suited to the role of warrior, and it soon appears that she has a great deal of battle experience, not in set piece conflicts but in the picking off of specified targets for assasination. She is determined to find and contact her father, who has made her “The Archer”, a sophisticated killing machine. She is an expert in every weapon except the sword; she can keep watch for extended periods and kill men to order. She can hide in high places, and picks a tree which overlooks the port with its coming and going of boats. A few hours later she feels herself pulled out from the tree by rough hands, and despite her desperate attempts to free herself which include inflicting injuries on her captor, she is taken up to a boarding house and secured as a prisoner. Eldric of Hawksmoor is a man who she has watched for years, a huge and powerful warrior with great responsibility to King Edward himself. For complex reasons her father has in the past instructed her, as part of her role, to kill Eldric and others, but she has instead chosen to observe him, discovering an attraction for him that she cannot explain. Eldric meanwhile is torn between the unexpected discovery that his long term adversary who he has sworn to kill in revenge for his friends is female, and his sworn duty to take the Archer to London and the King. He feels a powerful attraction to her, especially when he discovers her past history, but he soon realises that she will fight him with every ounce of her strength.
This is a strongly written tale of mutual attraction in nearly impossible circumstances. It seems to be one of a sequence of books which feature some of the characters alluded to in this story, but it certainly stands alone as a complete novel in its own right. It is a skillfully written novel of character and setting, with two unusual but fascinating main characters.
1297 in Paris was a bleak and dangerous time to fall in love. Not only for the poor scraping a near living on the streets, but also for those with enormous financial resources as well as sworn enemies. This romance novel introduces Aliette, a homeless young woman long abandoned by her family, and continues the family tale of the mysterious Reynold. The man is a dark and incredibly secretive man; he sees secrecy as his only defence against enemies he has had for his entire lifetime. He is a danger to anyone he perceives as liable or guilty of betraying him. Aliette is a poor, near starving woman who has a great secret responsibility. Their meeting and subsequent close proximity makes them realise that what they have long believed about themselves is questionable; that affection may be possible. This well paced novel is a dark romance and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.
The book shows Reynold in his study, a well furnished room which is at odds with his well practiced skills in dealing out death to those who threaten him in any way. His well established secrecy is currently at risk as an old woman has brought a small child, a baby, who she claims is his daughter. He is torn as he is strictly self controlled, but he fears that there is enough truth in her story that he escorts her to a squalid room and tragedy. Meanwhile, Aliette is more than usually worried about her survival and that of her adopted family. She has discovered a couple, Vernon and Helenwise, scavenging as street beggars, more than usually disadvantaged by their physical difficulties. Gabriel is a traumatised boy whose parents are dead, and he has been scarred for life as part of the events he has experienced. Aliette has been attempting to provide for the three desperate people, buoyed by their affection and company. Her series of small jobs does not provide much, and it is to attempt to rectify Gabriel’s theft of bread that brings her to Reynold’s attention. He dispatches some of his mercenaries to bring her into his deceptively large fortified house, and once there puts a propropsition to her which surprises them both. As they discover more about each other and the fact that draws them together, they begin to also find out the very real dangers of life of being in France with a family at war.
This is a strong romance which has common roots in other books, but is more than readable as a standalone novel. The romance between the two main characters is well expressed as a gradual discovery on both sides, when the real risks of their attraction become evident. I found this a well crafted book with a well expressed sense of apprehension throughout. Aliette is an attractive character for her loyalty and determination, her instinctive understanding of others and her sense of responsibility. There is a darkness in this book, but Locke is an experienced author who handles the theme well, and this is a successfully gripping and enthralling novel.
Two Scottish clans, the Lochmore and McCrieff, have been in a state of conflict for generations. Fighting over land, motivated by old feuds and grudges, regular skirmishes and fights, this novel gives a touching and dynamic instalment of the ongoing story. As Rory Lochmore prepares to fight a battle for land that his clan has a valid claim on, he knows that far more than brief bravery is called for on this day. Meanwhile Ailsa is a young woman with some influence in the Clan McCrieff, as the eldest daughter of the acting ruler, as she minsters to the sick Chief Hamish, as the clan’s healer. Intelligent, blunt and perceptive, she is fully aware of the stories of bad feeling between the clans, and has a deeply personal reason for hating those from Clan Lochmore. As a friend is endangered and family duty tested, Ailsa and Rory establish a link that may solve problems, or may create new ones in a dangerous setting with implications for many people. Ailsa finds herself dangerously attracted to a man who symbolises the enemy; will she be able to resist a man who is seeking to establish himself in so many ways?
This is a sophisticated historical novel in a setting of medieval life which rejoices in the tiny details. A delicious combination of romance, historical insight and frank descriptions of relationships in a timeless way, this is a totally engaging and involving tale of people so far away in time, but who are forced to respond in ways which are totally understandable today. With a rich mixture of relationships, family revelations and always a hint of danger, this is a novel of love in a time of change and redefined conflict. A sophisticated tale of love, betrayal and long standing secrets, this is historical romantic fiction with so much to offer.
I found this a tremendous read which I enjoyed on so many levels, incidentally learning much of the strength of clan loyalties. It does not hold back on the details of physical relationships, and yet maintains an admirable balance in terms of the novel as a whole. I enjoyed the description of the strength of friendship between Rory and Paiden, and its effects on the story as a whole. The conflict which dominates Ailsha’s thoughts and emotions is carefully examined, and yet the momentum and pace of the book is tremendous. The atmosphere of the building is well described, and the little touches of realism well explored. Touching and involving, the novel works as a fine account of love and lives in a dynamic way. I am not familiar with the series of novels it represents, so I can state that it works brilliantly as a standalone book. I would love to find out more of this series in time. Nicole has had a tremendous success with this book, and is obviously an experienced writer within this genre.
I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this novel, and recommend it as an excellent read for fans of historical romance and historical fiction generally.