The Knight’s Runaway Maiden by Nicole Locke – an historical novel of power and romance

The Knight’s Runaway Maiden by Nicole Locke

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.  

Secrets of a Highland Warrior by Nicole Locke – a moving and successful historical romance 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.   

The Earl’s Runaway Governess by Catherine Tinley – a wonderful historical romance

A romantic historical novel can be exciting and challenging, as well as comforting and enjoyable. Tinley’s novel is a great example of intelligent historical romanticism, where the characters are distinct, their motives as complex as they would be in life, and the plot is satisfactorily engaging. This novel not only draws the reader in, but maintains interest and has an ending that means the last part of the book is compelling. As a long term admirer of Georgette Heyer, I am reasonably well read in this type of book, and really enjoyed this beautifully written novel. I was therefore very happy to be asked to read and review this novel by an experienced and confident writer.

Marianne Grant must leave her home where she has been carefully brought up to expect a continued, comfortable life and an advantageous marriage. However, on the death of her  loving parents a few months before, she has fallen under the guardianship of her stepbrother Harry whose feckless and spendthrift ways and drunken house parties have changed her life. This sad situation culminates in an attempt on her virtue by Harry, only foiled by the devotion of the housekeeper Mrs. Bailey. She departs in great secrecy taking minimal money and her mother’s jewels, and travels, for the first time alone, to London hoping to get employment. To her relief she is sent to a country house as governess to Lady Cecily, the twelve year old daughter of the impractical newly widowed Lady Kingwood. As Marianne has adopted the alias of Anne Bolton, when she meets the new Earl of Kingswood, Ash, he is at first uninterested in a plainly dressed employee. He is trying to come to terms with his new status as an Earl at the death of his cousin John, and the sad state of the house and estate, while seeking to forget his youthful attraction to “Fanny”, now Dowager Lady Kingswood. It soon becomes obvious that Anne is the only one who can manage and organise the household, and she becomes happily involved. She is living a new life, but she cannot escape her past completely. She also worries about her relationship with Ash; while she is undoubtedly attracted to him, and they have good humoured conversations, neither of them is certain of the other. While Anne finds many positives in her new identity, she still doubts how long it can last for. Ash is more than a fixed hero figure, as he still makes assumptions that bring their own problems.

This is a lovely romance, but there is a hard level underneath as one character reveals many undesirable elements and there seems to be no escape. The research into the carriages and types of business relating to travel is impeccable. The clothes are beautifully described and well suited to the state of the characters as they develop throughout the book. In short, this book has all the ingredients for an excellent historical romance and I can thoroughly recommend it as a brilliant read of its type, with just the correct amount of tension for a relaxing read.

 

I think that this is often where novel reading can be a great help when life is difficult. I have been known to read Jane Austen in times of great stress, but when you run out of those, Georgette Heyer and her modern followers can be a big help. However good a literary novel can be in all its modern challenging ideas and convention breaking themes, there will always be a place for genuinely wonderful historical fiction like this, so well done Catherine and I shall certainly be looking for more of your books!