by Bertrice Small

February 2004
ISBN: 0-7394-3981-2
Reviewer Graphic Button Kensington Publishing
Trade Paperback

In a bit of a departure from her usual style, author Bertrice Small delivers a trilogy of tales in The Dragon Lordís Daughters. Each story revolves around the marriage of a descendant of Arthur Pendragon, the fabled King Arthur of Camelot. Long before he was crowned king, Arthur was betrothed to a young woman, who later bore his illegitimate son. Merlin hid the family away, much as he had done to the infant Arthur, so that they would be free to carry on the Pendragon name long after Arthur was memory. In this story, Merin Pendragon has a most unusual household. Not only does he have a wife, but two concubines, with a total of four children. All of the children have been raised together as equals. There are three daughters, Averil, Maia and Junia, with their little brother Brynn.

Averil is the eldest, and while she was born to one of the concubines, she has a position of respect. As the time approaches for her to marry, she is apprehensive about the type of man her father will choose. Instead, she is kidnapped by Rhys FitzHugh who believes her to be the Pendragon heiress. He is a mere bastard son, steward to his sisterís property, and wants to marry well so he will have land to call his own. He meets his match in the feisty Averil!

Maia, the daughter of Merin and his wife Argel, is the true heiress, both in wealth and land. She does not know what to think when a shadowy man visits her in her dreams, a beautiful castle visible behind him. This spectre tells Maia that he is coming for her, that he loves her and wants to marry her. Who is he? What sort of magic does he cast to visit a young girl in her dreams?

The youngest, Junia, is also illegitimate, but greatly beloved by the family. When she happens to meet a young man named Simon, they find they have many things in common. While their woodland meetings are completely innocent, their love for one another blooms. The young hearts are broken when it is learned that Simon is the son of the Pendragonís worst enemy, a man so evil that his own family has turned away from him. Junia and Simon will never be allowed to marry!

Even in a shortened structure, each of the three stories is full-blown and complete. Ms. Small does not skimp on plot or character development. All three sisters have very different personalities, yet form a strong core. It was interesting to see how each one grows and learns to handle what fate has in store. I particularly enjoyed Maiaís story, which has the most Arthurian leanings. In all, The Dragon Lordís Daughters is a refreshing story, which will appeal to the legions of Ms. Smallís fans, as well as readers who like a solid historical romance.

Reviewed in April 2004 by Paula.

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