I have to begin this review by acknowledging up front that it's not going to win me many friends - just don't get too mad with me, OK?! Lynsay Sands' book Always seems to appear with unfailing regularity at the top of lists of favorite books, and Ms. Sands herself is mentioned as a favorite author equally as many times! Given these undeniable facts, I have to accept that there must be something fundamentally wrong with me, because I really didn't like this book! If you can stand reading a review written by someone who's admitted to possibly flawed mental processes, then please carry on....
To begin with, the premise that an embattled and aging King Henry II would care enough about a bastard daughter to completely change his travel plans in order to see her wed to a man of honor is really too far-fetched. At that point in time, Henry was facing traitors, religious uprisings and political betrayal - it is hard to actually believe that a bastard child would elicit such concern when compared to the myriad of troubles in front of him. It's a nice idea, but "nice" doesn't often enter into a discussion of Henry II (does anyone remember Thomas Becket? OK, Henry was repentant afterwards, but still...).
The story continues by introducing Rosamunde, would-be nun and bastard daughter of Henry, and now surprised wife-to-be of Aric Burkhart. Much is made of Rosamunde's naiveté concerning the intimate details of marriage, and the fact that she assumes people do 'it' the same way as animals do 'it'! The nuns in these early chapters are no help at all and give her a lot more incorrect information. This is another large sticking point for me! We must remember that at this time, nuns were often the repository of many of the healing arts - sometimes they could even read and their knowledge of the workings of the human body and the herbs used to cure many common ailments usually far surpassed that of the gentry on whose land the convents were built. So Lynsay Sands does a disservice here to this Order, and simply having the nuns say to Rosamunde that her husband would tell her all she needed to know would have served this plot device better.
And so the story progresses with Aric and Rosamunde learning to live as man and wife. Aric himself is written as a bit of a blockhead; we are told that his actions stem from his betrayal at the hands of his former fiancée. But at no time do we sense that he was desperately in love with that woman, it seems much more of a hurt pride kind of thing! The fact that his actions towards Rosamunde are based on his fears that she might become a slut like his lost fiancée makes Aric look more like a pouting boy trying to avenge his pride than a grown knight recovering from a past betrayal.
Another major scene occurs when Rosamunde attempts to doctor Aric's horse. I shall merely comment that it would be unlikely that a Holding the size of Goodhall would be so lacking in blankets that substitutions would be necessary. After all, this was a time when people froze to death in their beds - to survive the winters took a lot of heavy-duty coverings, sheep were plentiful, and women knew how to spin warm fabrics. I didn't think this bit of business was amusing at all - it merely served to make Rosamunde look even more like a twit - a good intentioned twit, but a twit nonetheless. Her wondrous talents in the caring for and curing of animals could have been demonstrated in a better way, one that made Rosamunde appear to be the clever woman she was, rather than the idiot she appeared to be.
This book would have suited me better had Aric sensibly realized Rosamunde's character earlier in their romance, and I would have liked Rosamunde to have displayed more backbone! I realize that the latter is unlikely, because growing up in a medieval Convent probably doesn't encourage much in the way of independent thought. However, it would have given both of them the chance to work together against the murderous threats that haunt them - by the way, the actual identity of the villain was not a huge surprise either. There might be a passionate and adventurous romance inside this book trying desperately to get out, but I sure couldn't find it. I apologize to those who love this novel, and say "to each his own"; it's the greatest thing to be able to freely share our opinions, whether pro or con! In this case, unfortunately, I'm con!