Lady Christiana Fitzwaryn could not believe that King Edward would be so cruel as to arrange a marriage for her to a common merchant - David de Abyndon. Christiana believes that the King is punishing her for being found in a compromising situation with her true love, Stephen. Although David is wealthy and handsome, Christiana is convinced that Stephen, a knight of the Realm and therefore immensely more worthy of her, will rescue her from this dreaded marriage before it can actually take place.
David is sympathetic to Christiana’s feelings, but he is not only determined to have her as his wife, but has in fact been decreed to it by the King for reasons he cannot reveal to Christiana. David and Christiana have much holding them apart – an old love, a daunting difference in status, not to mention Christiana’s resentment at being “bought” by David from King Edward. However, when it becomes apparent that marriage to David is eminent, Christiana resolves to make him a good wife. Unfortunately, just when their union has a chance to evolve into a true marriage, political intrigue, dangerous secrets and past relationships may very well tear them apart forever.
I know a book is good if it can persuade me to enjoy it even though it is a time period, setting, etc. that I normally do not particularly care for. By Arrangement managed to do just that even though medieval romances are not usually my cup of tea.
At the beginning of the novel, I was afraid that I was not going to find Christiana a very likable heroine with her talk of status and of whom was “worthy” of her hand and who was not, even if it was the way things were in that era. However, over the course of the story, Christiana grew and matured measurably and soon learned what truly matters in life. David was a bit harder to get to know since he was necessarily shrouded in mystery until later in the story. However, what the reader learns about him, especially involving his childhood and the hardships he endured because of being a bastard, endears him to you.
Madeline Hunter writes an intriguing mystery that has the reader guessing until the very end. Unlike some “secrets” in many romance novels where everyone knows what is going on except for the heroine (which in turn usually makes her looks naïve for not guessing beforehand!), in By Arrangement, the reader is as much in the dark as Christiana as the plot unfolds. The only drawback to this is that I felt as though the book did not really get going until it was almost over. Then at the end there was one mystery exposed right after another rather quickly with not much time to really mull it over before the conclusion was at hand.
In all, I found By Arrangement a very enjoyable read and will be sure to look forward to reading more from Ms. Hunter.