Monday, January 12, 2009
In feudal England, Elizabeth Montwright barely escaped the massacre that destroyed her family and exiled her from her ancestral castle. Bent on revenge, she rode again through the fortress gates, disguised as a peasant...to seek aid from Geoffrey Berkley, the powerful baron who had routed the murderers.
He heard her pleas, resisted her demands, and vowed to seduce his beautiful subject. Yet as Elizabeth fought the warrior's caresses, love flamed for this gallant man who must soon champion her cause...and capture her spirited heart!
Julie Garwood writes some of my very favorite romances, primarily her Scottish medievals. This was the very first book that she wrote. I wasn't bowled over by it, but I saw many promising elements in this book that showed up in her later medievals. This was a weaker version of her subsequent ones. It lacked the humor and quirkiness that comes into her later attempts, but since it was her first stab at it, I'll give her a break. For a first novel, it was very good, but compared to The Bride (which is my favorite and first Julie Garwood) it paled in comparison. I'm slowly making my way through her backlist, starting with her earliest work.
This is the story about Elizabeth and Geoffrey. He is an English warrior, a favorite of William the Conqueror. I can't say I liked Geoffrey. He was domineering, autocratic and had almost no sense of humor. For a 27 year old, he acted like he was over 50. Good looking in that tall, dark and handsome warrior kind of way, he had an appeal to him, but he had to dominate over everything (yes, yes, I understand he's an overlord and this is feudal England) but it got old really fast.
Elizabeth is the beautiful and striking daughter of a slain nobleman, who was a vassal under Lord Geoffrey. She witnessed the murder of her family and must cope with the memory and try to protect her little brother, the heir to her family's estate. She is hell bent on vengeance. By chance she saves the life of Lord Geoffrey and they soon marry. From the moment he first sees her he knows he will have her and marry her. Yet, he's inflexible and incapable of loving her (or so he thinks.) He cares for her and wants her in his bed, but that's as far as he goes. They are constantly at odds with each other. He insists that she must obey him and be subservient to him, but she'll have none of that. She's convinced that she must train him to be more of a loving husband to her. This is the crux of the story. Can these two very stubborn people get over their pre-conceived notions of how the other should behave and just let nature take it's course and find a mutually satisfying relationship with one another?
If Geoffrey hadn't been such a hard ass, I think I would have enjoyed this story more. How many times must we read about his scowls and his difficulty to reign in his anger, his yelling at the top of his voice? I tired of having it beat over my head - okay already, I get it! Elizabeth is a strong heroine, yet kind of ditzy (not in a bad way, but she's a bit forgetful and irresponsible). She is almost fearless, a good mate for her new husband. Even though they might disagree and argue during the day, their nights are for each other and all arguments and problems of the day are put aside until the morning. He is a surprisingly gentle and considerate lover. The lovemaking scenes were hot, and some were intense - but I still couldn't get over not liking him! Finally, by the end of the book he comes around, but by that point, I'd already lost interest in him. There were times when I thought the story was going to get interesting, for instance, when Elizabeth decides she's going to give him just what he wants, a meek and obedient little wife, but that never happened for the novel took an adventurous turn in which Elizabeth risks her life to save someone, and Geoffrey gets all bent out of shape by it. I found it so annoying that he could not deal with it! When he finally does realize he loves her, it takes him forever to finally tell her, he keeps putting it off for the right time - grr!
I just wanted to get the book over with. I think I prefer Scots behaving this way, more than Englishmen. I have no idea why or if it makes sense, but it's just the way I feel. Give me a Scottish barbarian in a kilt and I'll follow him anywhere.