Author: Joyce DiPastena
Genre: Historical Romance (Medieval)
Publisher: Leatherwood Press
Rating: 5.0 of 5.0
Heat Rating: Sweet
Author Website: Joyce DiPastena
Reviewed by: MarthaE
Buy Link: Loyalty's Web
Blurb: In twelfth century France, King Henry II of England has just finished quashing a rebellion by his power-hungry sons and now seeks to tame the lawless barons who supported them in this corner of his "Angevin empire." To this end, the king has sent the Earl of Gunthar as his royal representative to ensure that Prince Richard and his former cohorts faithfully adhere to the terms of the peace treaty.
Far from being welcomed with open arms, Gunthar no sooner steps foot in the county of Poitou than he is greeted by a series of assassination attempts. All appear to be linked to the former rebellious prince through the agents of the family and friends of young Heléne de Laurant. A clever, intrepid young woman, she realizes that the only way to prove her loved ones’ innocence is by exposing the true assassin. Heléne races against time—and dark secrets of the past—to unmask the killer before the kingdom plunges back into war.
Fierce determination gives way to mutual attraction as Heléne and Gunthar spar over the identity of the traitor. But their blinding magnetism almost causes them to overlook an even deadlier threat from an entirely unexpected direction.
REVIEW: This is a superbly written, action packed, “classic” medieval romance. I say “classic” as I see this in the tradition of the top historical romances I have read – rich in authentic details, descriptions, characters and plot.
I love Heléne’s character. She is smart, brave, humble, resourceful, and caring without being hysterically emotional. She is loyal to her family and friends and wants to protect her father, her sister and even her friend who is caught attacking Gunthar. She doesn’t faint or panic but rather takes a deep breath and manages to get done what has to be done! She has learned skills that most young ladies would not: she can read, she can shoot a bow and she has learned about herbs and healing. She is not rebelliously disobedient to her parents but she is not going to let them “sell” her in marriage to a man she has not even met. She may not be the physical beauty in the family, but she is beautiful in character. Heléne thinks Gunthar is cold and ruthless at first, but their impassioned confrontations ultimately lead to an attraction that surprises and distresses her since he is to be betrothed to her reluctant sister. Heléne wants to trust him but fears she must keep her secrets because of his narrow minded view of “traitors” which allows no mercy.
Gunthar is a great character also. He definitely fits the expectations of a King’s trusted knight and representative. He is big, powerful in presence, and a skilled warrior and strategist. He believes in honor, loyalty and duty. He is pretty stubborn and obstinate in his attitude towards traitors, taking the usual position of a medieval knight that if a member of a family is guilty then, in addition to death to the traitor, the whole family is stripped of title and lands, even if it means putting the women and children out to fend for themselves. He doesn’t believe in love and certainly doesn’t lose control of his fierce demeanor… at least he didn’t before he tangled with the spirited Heléne!
The plot is wonderfully full of tension, from the very first page until the end, with blackmail, murder, and secrets tangled up with political intrigues. Although it is obvious there are several conspirators and spies, there are red herrings and twists that make it difficult to determine for sure who the enemies are, especially since more than one party wants Gunthar dead.
The author clearly did her research on the time period and the writing is wonderfully authentic to the setting. The romance is sweet and balanced well with the action elements of the book. This book is a page turner that keeps you anxious to know what happens, but then I was sorry to come to the end. I will definitely be looking forward to more wonderful books from Ms. DiPastena. Thanks for a great read!
xxxThis book was supplied by the author for an unbiased review.
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