by Sara Bennett

April 2003
ISBN: 0-06-051970-3
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

At a celebration up in York in 1072 Briar seduces Ivo de Vessey with her voice.

Mistaking him for Radulf (Lily and the Sword!) she is seeking revenge on the man responsible for her unhappiness, her hate, her sorrow. She is not expecting to enjoy the experience, but only to suffer through it. She wants to ruin his perfect marriage. Seduce him and then reveal her name. Itís her chance to revel in her revenge. But unbeknownst to her Ivo de Vessey took Lord Radulfís place at the celebration and heís more than happy to be seduced.

Ivo is a scarred and tortured hero, he knows pain and so it comes as no surprise that he is tender and forgiving towards her. Honest in his feelings and deeply affected by her suffering he makes it his mission to protect her. He sees her integrity and that to him is far more important than her lost standing, the absence of beautiful garments. Itís not the clothes or birth that define a true noble person, but a caring, giving and honorable nature.

Afraid to trust anyone, especially a man, Briar fights him and her own attraction for him. At the same time she is trying to bind him closer to heróin desire,so she might be closer to his lord, Radulf.

Mostly I enjoyed their battles and how Ivo is all arrogant and protective, but full of admiration for her strength. Sometimes though I would have preferred him to be less possessive of Briar, to treat her less like a child and more like a woman.

I know, he does what he believes right for Briar and he does get away with it, as she canít help resisting him in her desire and love for him. Doesnít mean I have to like all of their battles. Especially when she keeps hurting him with words. Not letting him forget that as a disgraced knight he is not worthy. It only shows their insecurities and the subsequent need to control their environment. They have moments where they behave like small children, bickering over favorite toys, unwilling to share and to see reason.

Then again, because of her he wants to be a better person. Ivo needs to be a knight again, to fight for her, to protect her, to keep her safe. Thatís okay, as it is what she wants, too. Itís that simple. However, I would have preferred Briar to fight her own battles, to succeed in them and then to lend him a helping hand or sword. For her to be more of an Amazon than a damsel in distress.

Once he Loves is very easy reading, as Sara Bennett loves her characters so much that she leaves nothing to chance when it comes to her readers interest in them and makes sure that they know of her charactersí motivation at any time. Personally I would have preferred a little room for my own imagination. I would have liked the authorís trust in my ability to figure out the characters and actions. But when it comes down to it Once He Loves is simply a heartwarming romance, entertaining and fun to read.

Reviewed in July 2003 by Kris Alice.

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