by Betina Krahn

December 2001
ISBN: 0-553-58386-7
Reviewer Graphic Button Bantam Books
Mass Market Paperback

How do you solve a problem like - Sister Eloise? Well, she's no Maria Von Trapp, but there are some distinct similarities. Trouble seems to follow Eloise like a magnet whenever she good-heartedly tries to help out around the convent, and she's driving the other novitiates crazy. Just as the Abbess is about to rip her wimple to shreds with frustration, the answer to her prayers rides into the convent - the Earl of Whitmore.

Peril (super name for a knight), Earl of Whitmore, is in desperate need of a virtuous wife to rid his estates of a curse. Actually, he doesn't believe in curses, virtue, wives, prayer or much of anything except a damn good battle, but his people firmly believe that a curse can only be lifted by the proper marriage, and thus the Earl arrives at the Convent seeking a bride. With a display of crafty maneuvering that would outwit Machiavelli if he'd been alive at that time, the Abbess announces that the Earl shall indeed have his bride, but only after he has been evaluated and judged acceptable by the convent's "Husband Judge". And, yes, no prizes for guessing who is 'volunteered' for that job! Sister Eloise must spend at least a month with Peril, ensuring that he is appropriate husband material.

This is a really charming story with two wonderful lead characters. Peril is completely dumbfounded by his inability to forget a glimpse of Eloise's fiery mane, and Eloise finds her dreams troubled by visions of a strong and muscular chest! Both are bright, intelligent and strong minded, Peril is a true warrior but at a loss when it comes to replacing the rushes on the floor of his keep, and Eloise is thrust into her element trying to restore some order to Whitmore's holdings, but can't understand the possibility of danger. Neither can understand the sizzle between them.

Eloise is especially clearly written - her dilemma is so understandable. She has pledged her life to the service of God, but now finds herself falling under the spell of a mere man! The Abbess' solution to Peril's problem adds another lovely bit of symbolism to the story and Eloise is given the chance to be what she is truly meant to be! It is a real pleasure to spend time with a book where the heroine, would-be nun and sheltered novitiate notwithstanding, is given a personality that shines with intelligence and is allowed to use it to advance the plot. It can get very tiring watching as heroines are shunted off into trouble by stubborn heroes who refuse to pay attention. Ms. Krahn has managed to avoid that pitfall, and instead, allows Eloise to control several crucial situations. I say 'Bravo' to Betina Krahn; we need more heroines like this, and I think you'll agree if you read this story.

Reviewed in November 2001 by Celia.

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