by Sara Bennett

September 2002
ISBN: 0-06-000270-0
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

I love my medievals, but I am picky. Not enough storylines, which are original or intriguing enough to keep me captivated. Then there is the difficult to achieved balance of romance and historical details. I have my favorite authors and they seem to deliver the goods over and over again. As a result, picking a new author and trying their books is a risk I find hard to take when it comes to my favorite period in historical romance books. Sara Bennett is one new author that I enjoy. Her latest, a sequel to her previous Avon release, The Lily and The Sword, The Rose and The Shield, set in 1072, a time of upheaval and change, might not be overly innovative, but itís entertaining and satisfying.

Lady Rose of Somerford, a widow and mistress of her own keep, is in need of protection. Unseen and unknown enemies seem to covet what is hers. Reluctantly she agrees to hire mercenaries to protect her and her own. Afraid to ask and trust her overlord, the Lord Radulf (from The Lily and The Sword)ó she doesnít want to be seen as weak and therefore be forced to return to her fatherís home ó she leaves it up to her knight to find the men to defend her against the latest attacks on her land.

When Gunnar Olafson enters her gates, itís her heart that needs protecting, as this descent of the Viking kings bears too close a resemblance to the man of her nightly dreams. A big and strong man, heís not what she expected and what he seems.

Gunnarís mission, as paid for by Lord Radulf, is to find out if treachery is behind Lady Roseís need for fighting men. His longed for reward... Somerford! But his first glimpse of her beauty has him spellbound. And when he then finds out that she, instead of being haughty and week, is strong, opinionated and fiercely independent, he asks her to trust him.

The Rose and the Shield is not clever, witty or new in its storyline. It doesnít need to be! Itís warm, sensual and perfect to while away a lazy afternoon. The ending might be too abrupt but the story leading up to it is full of very well researched glimpses of everyday life in medieval times without overshadowing the growing attraction between Gunnar and Rose.

Sara Bennettís tale might not come across as very original and the writing voice perhaps is more comfortable than exciting, but it still manages to surprise me with unusual settings and a beautiful secondary love story.

The Rose and The Shield is entertaining, well written, moves more smoothly than The Lily and The Sword and delivers comfortably what it promises. For once a new author of medieval romance book that Iím not disappointed to have sampled.

Reviewed in October 2002 by Kris Alice.

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