Monday, May 3, 2010
The lady and the commoner...
Lady Christiana Fitzwaryn was not opposed to marriage. But she demanded to be married on her own terms, not as punishment for a romantic indiscretion, and especially not to a common merchant. Yet she was in for a shock when she met David de Abyndon. For she was confronted by no ordinary merchant but a man of extraordinary poise and virility. He was unaffected by their difference in social status. And even less affected by her well-thought-out arguments against their upcoming betrothal. Instead, it was Christiana who felt uneasy in the presence of this naturally lordly man behind whose cool blue eyes she sensed the most uncompromising of passions.
David de Abyndon understood Christiana's dilemma, for he too harbored a secret pain. How could he tell her that there was more to this arrangement than met the eye? How could he tell her about his deal with the king-a deal that meant he had all but bought Christiana sight unseen?
What's more, now that he had seen this beautiful, spirited woman, how could he convince her that the love she sought was not in the callow knight she had romanticized but in the flesh-and-blood arms of the man who may have bought her body--but in the bargain lost both his heart and soul?
I liked this medieval romance, but I didn't love it. I thought it was better than the other Madeline Hunter novel I've read, By Possession, but I always felt at arms length with these characters, particularly David. For most of the book, we don't know who he really is, it's obvious he's not just a simple merchant who has managed to accumulate a great amount of wealth. There's more to him than meets the eye. Is he a spy for the French against the English? Is he a spy for the English King Edward? Or is he some bastard son of some nobleman somewhere that never knew of his existence?
As much as this romance is slow developing, it's a fairly realistic relationship between Christiana and David. But, it was more Christiana's story, for it was all from her point of view. Occasionally, we'd get David's reactions to events, but mostly everything hinged on Christiana's reactions. She is in the unfortunate position of thinking she has given away her virginity to a knight she believed she was in love with. He turned out to be nothing more than a "love 'em and leave 'em" type who must return to his family in the north (he's a Percy). Naive and innocent, Christiana is mistaken and she hasn't actually lost her virginity, but the King thinks she has and he arranges a marriage for her with David de Abyndon, a prosperous merchant in the city of London.
Christiana is convinced that as soon as her lover, Stephen, finds out that she is being forced to marry a lowly merchant (she is considered "damaged goods" after all) he will come and spirit her away and elope with her. David knows better. He's almost too good to be true. He seems to know all and sees all. Christiana is so preoccupied with Stephen that she can't see what a gem David really is. Slowly but surely he gets under her skin.
Gradually, they get to know one another. Christiana tells him from the outset that she is not a virgin, yet David is still willing to marry her. The majority of the book centers on how the two learn to trust and deal with each other. David was right, and Stephen never comes to carry Christiana off. She marries David, but she still has the spectre of Stephen hanging over her head. David believes she loved him and is jealous. Christiana finds out shortly before the wedding that she is indeed still a virgin and before long she falls in love with her husband and realizes that she never loved Stephen afterall, she sees him for what he really is - although David doesn't realize this right away. He still thinks she carrying a torch for Stephen - miscommunication and jealousy is always the bane of honeymooners in romance novels.
The gist of the plot is, can Christiana get over her prejudice of marrying a wealthy merchant, rather than a noble and learn to love him - even if she thinks he might be a traitor? The plot thickens and we learn about who David really is, but the main focus is on Christiana and David's developing relationship and love for one another. No fireworks, no passionate avowals, it just sort of happens gradually. Of course, they have the obligatory "big misunderstanding", but David is a sensible man and eventually realizes his error in misjudging Christiana.
The ending became the usual 'kidnapped just when she was about to tell him she loved him' scenario and the locale shifts to Caen. David must search for and eventually find Christiana, thus rescuing her, and at the same time, we learn who he really is! (I had already guessed, it wasn't a stretch). Lots of flowery love talk at the end that I found dull and repetitive.
Am I the only one that is not ga-ga over Madeline Hunter? I just did not get into the story all that much, nor in the other book I read of hers. Her characters seemed to be two dimensional, though I did find the plotline early on (before it shifts to France) interesting and I wanted to see what would happen between them. But, for the most part it was a bit dull and when I read a medieval romance, I like a little more action and adventure - I need escapism.
Perhaps you'll feel differently. I doubt I'll read the 3rd book in the series.