*** NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
Usually with a Mary Jo Putney novel I can't put it down. It's one of those books that you think you're going to read a few chapters of before bed and then it's morning and it's time to get up and the couple chapters had turned into the whole novel. Unfortunately with this book that was not the case.
If I was religious it probably wouldn't have been that bad for me, but since I'm not it felt like I was kind of reading a warped version of the bible. However her portrayal of the Adrian, the male lead in this novel, proves my persistent opinion that many upstanding members of the church are some of the most hypocritical there are and many devout religious church goers seem to think they can behave however they want and all will be forgiven. While it reinforces my jaded opinion of religion I doubt it will go over well with those who are devoutly religious.
Adrian was one the youngest son of a baron who was taking his vows in the monastery when his family was massacred by a neighboring baron seeking control of the same land. Now the air to the barony he forgoes taking his final vows to take up his father sword and avenge the deaths of his family.
Meriel is the youngest daughter of a poor Norman Baron and is initially living in a convent studying to become a nun, when the day approaches for her to take her vows she realizes she can't do it. She can't lock herself away in the convent for the rest of her life.
The years pass and Adrian becomes one of the most powerful barons in England, fighting for the Empress Matilda in the great civil war, he is granted the Earldom of Shropshire and permission to hunt in the Royal Forest. Meriel is taken in by her youngest brother who is enfeoffed by Lord Theobald, a baron fighting for King Stephen in the great civil war. She is the Mistress of Avonleigh as her brother is an unmarried knight. Still yearning for Freedom she goes alone with her hawk hunting and is befallen by the worst sort of bad luck. First the hawk flies off into the Royal Forrest where she doesn't have permission to hunt. Then she and her horse are attacked by a boar where she is thrown and the horse escaped, then covered in mud she is surrounded by armed men, including the Earl of Shropshire fighting got the opposite side of the war. Worried about endangering her people she lies to the earl about her identity and is taken prisoner when she is thought to be a peasant girl on royal land with a hawk she doesn't that the station to own.
The ultra religious Earl has an obsession with the girl and is unwilling to set her free though her crimes are minor and he can't really prove she did anything wrong. He offers her a position as his mistress and when she refuses he continues to keep her captive. He tries every method possible to win her and then in desperation almost rapes her. His way of trying to make it right is to then propose to her. When he refuses to set her free and her only options seem to be death or rape Meriel attempts suicide by jumping out a window. The Earl desperate to save her jumps in behind her.
Though she shouldn't have lived she does survive, but has amnesia. It is during this time that the Earl convinces her to fall in love with him and marries her. He neglects to tell her what happened before she woke up. During a tempest she's almost struck by lightning and in the fall regains her memory of everything except the months during which she married. When she tries again to escape she is captured by a rival baron, almost raped again and the heroic male lead save her and murders the man who massacred his family.
I'm all about character growth but I can't get over the fact that I'm somehow supposed to like and feel for a man who tried to rape the girl. Whether he stopped himself eventually or not, he ripped her clothes, and caged her torturing her like an animal and this sis supposed to be the good guy. Add to this the man refuses to allow Jews to settle on his land until after they tried to help his wife. It's like I owe you one so I'll let you stay but if you hadn't done for me I'm not going to let you live here because you don't believe the same thing as me.
What was really creepy to me is that they were quoting bible verses during sex. That just seems somehow wrong. And of course at the end they somehow end up happy and together the captive and the captor who tortured her.
The book has some exciting scenes and a lot of historical information about at time period that isn't often covered well in historical romance, but it's lacking a lot everywhere else....Continua