by Claudia Dain

October 2001
ISBN: 0-8439-4933-3
Reviewer Graphic Button Dorchester Publishing
Mass Market Paperback

There possibly couldnít be a more reluctant bridegroom than Richard. He would rather stay a monk rather than wed Isabel of Dornei, whom after the death of her father inherited vast properties and wealth. But Isabelís betrothed, Richardís older brother had met a precipitous death, and so did the next eldestÖ and in order for the agreement to stand between the families, as well as protect Isabel from usurpers who covet her wealth, Richard, as the third Ė and last! Ė son, must marry Isabel.

Isabel and Richard arenít strangers to each other. Fostered in the same household since they were children, they grew up the closest of friendsÖ that is until puberty set in and Isabel hounded Richardís every step in adoration. Richard, on the other hand, has avoided Isabel after being hassled by the other boys, embarrassed by Isabelís obvious feelings. After a passionate kiss, however, Richard had gone to join the monks in the Benedictine Abbey after earning his knight spurs.

After a year with the monks, Richard had never thought to set sights on Isabel again. Isabel, still in love with Richard, never bothers to hide her feelings, which aggravates Richard to no end! Not a great start to a marriage when the husband is embarrassed by his wifeís obvious affections! But the tables are turned when Richard finally realizes his mistake and sets out to win back Isabelís love.

It was a bit hard to read the first part of the book. Richardís reluctance to marry to a woman he is obviously in lust with is bewildering Ė but, to Claudia Dainís credit, never annoying! The first half of the book is also devoted to learning of Isabelís and Richardís predispositions, where much of the focus are their thoughts and interactions with other characters, which can be a bit frustrating because of my eagerness for them to ďget it on.Ē

Richardís a bit grim - deep and intense, and steeped in religion due to his time with the monks. However, as everyone who comes across Richard conclude, he was no ordinary monk. He has always been first and foremost an honorable knight Ė and it is this honor that tears him apart inside. Isabel, on the other hand, is guileless Ė too honest and naÔve, it didnít occur to her that her obvious regard for Richard is gossip fodder for everyone, something that Richard has always been painfully aware of. One off-putting part of the book is the necessary confessional at the end, which involved their foster parents. Although it explained a lot of Richardís private anguish, it was difficult for me to suspend belief on that particular scene. However, Richardís admission of love for Isabel more than makes up for it!!

Claudia Dain has penned a wonderful book Ė with interesting and deeply motivated characters, The Marriage Bed is not a light read, and not even easy at times. But well worth the time and effort for the most satisfying happily ever after!

Reviewed in April 2002 by Veronica.

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