Saturday, April 7, 2012
In the feuding English court, gentle Lady Madelyne suffered the cruel whims of her ruthless brother, Baron Louddon. Then, in vengeance for a bitter crime, Baron Duncan of Wexton - the Wolf - unleashed his warriors against Louddon's main. Exquisite Madelyne was the prize he captured...but when he gazed upon the proud beauty, he pledged to protect her with his life. In his rough-hewn castle, Duncan proved true to his honor. But when at last their noble passion conquered them both, she surrendered with all her soul. Now, for love, Madelyne would stand fast...as bravely as her Lord, the powerful Wolf who fought for..."Honor's Splendour."
Another Julie Garwood medieval, and alas, my last. I think I've read all her medievals now. As far as I'm concerned, Julie Garwood is the gold standard when it comes to medieval romances. No one comes close to capturing her style that often involves virginal, endearing and slightly ditzy heroines who meet their alpha male heroes that are larger than life. Two opposites must comes to terms with one another. The stories are laced with screwball humor and sensually romantic love scenes that make them memorable and special. The plotlines are vaguely similar, a certain set of events bring the two together, the heroine often is an outsider who must learn to live among her new husband/lover/captor's people while fighting whatever outside force is trying to keep them apart. My favorite of them is The Bride, but Honor's Splendour was very good as well, It has has some similarities to The Bride, only this tale is a bit darker, for the heroine. Madelyne has a sad past of abuse. Yet, Baron Duncan Wexton, who takes her captive to his castle in England, protects her and keeps her safe while readying his soldiers for the inevitable battle against her sadistic half-brother, Baron Louddon and possibly the King of England.
The first meeting between Duncan and Madelyne is dramatic. Right off the bat, the reader learns that not only is Madelyne beautiful, but her kindness often overrules common sense. Braving her brother's wrath, she does what she can to save Duncan when she believes he is left naked to freeze to death by her brother. Unknown to Madelyne, Duncan was never in any danger. His men were at the ready, waiting for his signal to invade the keep and Duncan handily destroys her brother's castle. Unfortunately, the cowardly Baron Louddon got away. Duncan takes Madelyne hostage, prepared to use her as a bargaining chip. Little does he know that Madelyne is glad to be taken away from her brother, who is a sadistic bastard who took joy in beating her, as well as an unfulfilled incestuous attraction to her.
To describe Duncan, one must use superlatives. The biggest, the best, the cleverest, the greatest and the strongest English soldier in the kingdom. In addition he is the most handsome, the best lover, the most desired with the ladies. No one can compare to Duncan. Yet, he doesn't have everything. He has no woman in his life... until he meets the infuriating Madelyne. Her sweetness and naivete confounds him - and his men. Considered the best fighters in the kingdom, his men are stymied by Madelyne, who blithely goes about her business around the castle, obliviously wreaking havoc everywhere she goes. She and Duncan have an instant attraction to one another, yet she is unwilling to admit it. Madelyne is taken with fever when he first brings her back to his keep. While insensible, she mistakes him as Odysseus, of Homer's Odyssey (her favorite tale and a running theme throughout the whole book). He spends the night with her, warming her in her bed and does so from then on - but she's unaware of it! Every night he climbs into bed with her after she's asleep. While curled up next to him she has no idea (I told you she was a bit of a ditz!) Their courtship is cute and endearing. As Duncan's stern facade melts, she worms her way into his heart. Not only does she win Duncan over, but everyone else at the castle as well, including his sister who had been raped at the instigation of her brother, Louddon.
Eventually, Duncan can wait no longer. He must bed Madelyne as a wife. Luckily a priest is at hand to do the job. They marry, and so begins their nights of sensual bliss - as only Julie Garwood can do. Yet there is still the prickly problem of her brother and uh oh - all is not as it seems when it comes to their marriage. Was it legal? The plot picks up and gets more complicated when they all must go to London to answer the summons of the king (who may or may not be having a sexual relationship with Madelyn's craven brother.) Louddon has told the King that Duncan destroyed his keep unprovoked and wants him punished. Will Louddon get his way? Will Duncan convince the king that Louddon is lying through his teeth? Will the king listen to what Madelyne has to say - for she is the only witness that can attest to what really happened the night Duncan destroyed her brother's keep. All kinds of truths are revealed as Madelyne prepares for her meeting with the king!
I really enjoyed Honor's Splendour, though I found it to be a trifle uneven. It had it's entertaining and oh-so-sexy moments, but it was a bit dull in some parts as well. Overall, though, if you like strong alpha heroes who are putty in the hands of their winsome, ingenuous brides, you'll like this.