by Deborah Johns

February 2002
ISBN: 0-8217-7085-3
Reviewer Graphic Button Zebra Books
Mass Market Paperback

Young Countess Alix de Mercier had a strange dream – her unfaithful husband came to her and asked her to protect his illegitimate child! Then he, and his beloved peasant mistress, turned and left Alix alone. Upon waking, Alix learned that the Castle de Mercier had been treacherously invaded, and her husband and his mistress slain in their bed. Her duty was clear – protect the child from Lancelot de Guigny, the invader, who would slay both her and the child without a moment’s thought.

Thus begins this engrossing tale of medieval politics, treachery, and love. Alix de Mercier survives by her wits and her strength, only to find a stranger at her side – the Knight Brigante, a landless warrior, who cannot help but aid the young woman in her fight to survive. Severin Brigante had no part in the invasion and massacre at Castle de Mercier, but it is still a surprise when Alix finds herself married to him instead of on her way to a convent where she had expected to live out the rest of her life.

In the past, I have not sought out historical novels too often – I have found too many history lessons getting in the way of the plot. Here the history lessons are mixed in with the action, but they are still history lessons. The plot is complex and demands 100% of the reader’s attention – it is tough to put this book down for a few hours and come back to it. The characters are functioning within a very specific time frame and very specific historic events – leading up to the victory by Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt. The politics of the time are confusing to those unfamiliar with the era, and the alliances seem to change on a whim. The fact that these points are being discussed here and now demonstrates that the intrigues actually take precedence over the romance!

Both Alix and Severin are interesting characters, and the blossoming of their love is a joy to behold. But I felt it took second place to the grand historical epic that was occurring at the time, especially with the added twist of the Maltese Star and legends of the Knights Templar. The focus couldn’t remain on Alix and Severin long enough for us to become totally enmeshed in their passion – there was too much else going on. The lovers are the threads that bind this tale together, and although I enjoyed it on a strictly historical level, as a romance it could have used more passion and less politics!

Reviewed in April 2002 by Celia.

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