Harlequin Historical Nov 2009
277 pages by Carol Townend
BLURB ON BACK OF BOOK:
Raised a lady, Emma of Fulford is a fallen woman with a young son as proof. He is all she has in the world, and now the boy's brutal father has returned. Desperate and afraid, she needs to escape, and fast, so she approaches Sir Richard of Asculf. She begs this honorable Norman knight for help--and offers the only thing she has left...herself.
Honorable he may be, but Sir Richard is only human and Lady Emma tempts his resolve. Can this conquering knight tame his runaway lady and stop her running for good?
As far as medievals go, they are not at the top of my preferred Historical-type read, unless the hero is stuffed into a kilt (I will talk about this misleading cover down below) This is part of her "Wessex Weddings" series, of which I have not read any of the previous books.
But, I must say I was completely caught up in this story. The hero is a Norman Knight, Sir Richard of Asculf, already he appeals. He is in Saxon land, shortly after the Battle of Hastings, but we soon see this 'Conquering Lord' is fair and honorable. And a stunning specimen to boot.
The heroine, Emma of Fulford, was from a prominent family, but now, has the status of a 'fallen woman', her son Henri is proof of that. She ekes out a living taking in laundry, as most of the village shuns her. Her son's father is someone she truly wishes to avoid, and when he shows back up in the village, showing to be his usual brutish self, Emma runs to Sir Richard (now a Lord, thanks to a cousin dying) for a job, protection, anything. The 'anything' to be agreed upon, is Sir Richard's mistress.
How refreshing to read a medieval story without all the 'Knight speak', with the 'mayhaps' and 'ye's' thrown about. And the characterizations are strong, we are given generous access to Richard's inner most thoughts, his torturous nightmares of war, his growing affection for Emma.
He really is a wonderful hero. His sensitive handling of Emma's son, the affection he shows the boy, is endearing. He treats his servants with kindness, and the people living in the village and near his lands with respect.
And Emma, even though she is running from her former lover Judhael, she is no simpering, cowering miss. She has a real inner strength that Sir Richard cannot help but admire. She would do anything to protect her son.
I loved following them on their journey back to Sir Richard's Norman lands, sort of a medieval road trip. And the love story between them is rich, lush and passionate. Both very strong, believable, likable characters, which made this a keeper for me.
"Emma, I want your hands on me. You like touching me, Emma don't pretend otherwise. Love me, Emma."
Yeah, I love a hero that speaks his mind and asks, nay, demands what he wants, and for all his honorable intentions of having Emma as 'mistress in name only' goes right out the barn door as he utters these words to her as they frolic in the hay.
A few plots twists threaten Emma and Richard's love, all culminating in a satisfactory conclusion. I truly enjoyed the story and both these characters.
3 and a 1/2 stars out of 4 for the book
KOVER KUDOS: Wow. Talk about taking some old Highlander cover art and recycling it here. Wrong Era, wrong clothes, wrong, wrong, wrong. Sir Richard is a medieval Norman Knight, not some Highlander! And the heroine is wearing clothes from the early 1800's! Shameful, this has nothing to do with the story at all, and is very misleading. Someone would see the tartan design and think, "Oh boy! Highlanders!" and buy the book. No Highlanders here, not even close. It only merits 1/2 star because that is Nathan Kamp on the cover. Boo hiss, Harlequin!
1/2 star out of 4 for the cover