Friday, January 15, 2010
FEARLESS IN BATTLE
His surcoat still bloody from battle, William FitzAlan comes to claim the strategic borderlands granted to him by the king. One last prize awaits him at the castle gates: the lovely Lady Catherine Rayburn.
TENDER IN BED
Catherine risked everything to spy for the crown. Her reward? Her lands are declared forfeit and she is given this choice: marry FitzAlan or be taken to the Tower. Catherine agrees to give her handsome new husband her body, but she's keeping secrets, and dare not give him her heart. As passion ignites and danger closes in, Catherine and William must learn to trust in each other to save their marriage, their land, and their very lives.
KNIGHT OF DESIRE
I liked this book a lot, it has depth to it with a good plotline, a cut above the usual alpha male lording it over his new wife medieval. There is a poignancy about this couple, you're rooting for them and frustrated as well with the secrets and mistakes that leads to the angst between them. Both of them want to love one another and be happy, yet due to a series of circumstances and miscommunications, they have a long and circuituous road ahead to finally find the happiness they long for. Thanks to the vivid characterizations and unexpected plotlines, this book was a pleasure to read, though I did have a problem with some of the hero and heroine's actions, which didn't sit right with me. But overall, I loved it and could barely put it down.
When we first meet our hero and heroine, it is five years before the real story of the book gets started. They have a chance meeting in a stable as Catherine is planning to slip away the night before she is to marry - an arranged marriage with a man she does not trust. She senses he is not a good man. William FitzAlan, a young and green knight, inwardly wishes he could help her and stop the marriage, yet he cannot. Instead, he does the only thing he can do - he keeps her company on her last night as a maiden. He agrees to help her escape for a few hours while they talk together beneath the stars and it becomes a night both of them will remember fondly.
Five years later, Catherine is her own woman, a strong heroine, used to having the run of things. Yet, she is emotionally scarred. Being married to the brutal man who misused her repeatedly has taken its toll. It's no wonder when we first meet her again, she gets down on her knees and thanks God when she hears the news that he has been killed as a traitor in battle. As fate would have it, William FitzAlan is the knight that has been chosen by the king to marry her. He recognizes her as the same girl of that long ago night, yet Catherine does not recognize the shy and bearded knight of her dreams. Instead, before her is a large and imposing blood stained warrior fresh from the battle that killed her husband. William has come a long way himself in five years. Honor bound to his liege, the King of England, he intends to marry Catherine, despite the fact he believes her to be a lying schemer who betrayed her husband as a traitor knowing full well she'd be sending him to his death.
The plotline becomes more intricate, but the gist of it is, William must learn how to trust in Catherine and recognize that she has not turned into a cheating liar since their first meeting before she married. She is a gem and he must learn to recognize it. I couldn't help but wonder why he had such a hard time seeing it to begin with. Once he learned the truth of her unhappy first marriage, that should of clinched it and removed all of his doubts about her. Yet, then we wouldn't have such a good story with a good dose of angst and frustation!
Due to Catherine's first husband's cruelty, which William was told of by a trusted and loyal servant, it takes Catherine weeks to finally be comfortable enough to truly be William's wife in bed. She comes around with much cajoling and kind words and actions. They learn to savor and enjoy their nights together and he shows her a whole new side to marriage she'd never previously experienced. But, at first, she is scared to death, to say the least. Yet, despite this, due to her close friendship with the king's son, William thinks that she is the prince's mistress! Does he believe she was merely acting about being afraid to bed him when they first married? Unfortunately, her confession at a later point in the book of the true parentage of her young son doesn't help her case, though she has a good, albeit damaging, reason for it. Still, I had a problem with this plot point because it didn't seem to jibe with her fear of the sexual act itself due to her husband's brutality.
In any case, does William give her the benefit of the doubt? Does he understand or accept her explanation of why and how it happened? No! He thinks the worst of Catherine. Her confession only firmly plants the idea in his head that she is some kind of Jezebel, forgetting the terror in her eyes in those first few days of their marriage at the thought of getting into bed with him. How could she be someone's mistress? He continues to have too many remaining doubts about her when he should have more about his own men, such as the devious fellow knight whom he leaves in charge of the castle while he's away, despite Catherine's pleas to do otherwise. Big mistake.
There were so many reasons staring William in the face as to why he should believe Catherine, yet he ignored all of them and her good qualities. He refused to recognize he could be wrong about her. To add to that, he has a tendency of saying stupid things, bringing up - what he considers - her lying past which angers and saddens her. How can he make such tender love to her, yet not trust her? They spend their days avoiding each other. She fumes and he scratches his head wondering why. (Though I noticed it didn't keep him from her bed for too long *grin*) William's a good man and Catherine's lucky to have him, but he's got a lot to learn. I'm not saying it was all William's fault, since that confession of hers about her son really didn't help her case, but a man of the world and a knight such as William, should be a bit sharper when it comes to recognizing the signs when they're right in front of him. Eventually, William learns the hard way that he can't live without his new wife and he goes to the ends of the earth to keep her. I found it very satisfying when they finally are able to communicate their love for one another and put the past behind them. I loved the ending and how the author brought their story full circle. Nice touch.
I'm looking forward to her next book in the series, Knight of Pleasure, I think Ms. Mallory's debut is an excellent addition to the medieval romance genre and I hope she writes many more! Plus, her covers are divine - simply beautiful and luscious to look at!
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher last year after winning it in a giveaway.