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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Review: Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena

This is an engaging medieval romance.
Illuminations of the Heart (Historical Romance Novels)
By Joyce DiPastena

    Illuminations of the Heart (Historical Romance Novels)
  • Paperback: 425 pages
  • Publisher: Walnut Springs Press (June 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935217267
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935217268
     Genre: Historical Romance
     My Rating: 4.5 of 5.0

Product Description
"Clothilde." He spoke the name on a breath like a prayer. Then he lowered his head and kissed her.

Her heart is lost in that first embrace, her world is shaken to its foundations. There is just one problem; her name is not Clothilde. It is Siriol de Calendri. Trained in the art of illumination in the far-off city of Venice, Siri is directed by her late brother's will to the county of Poitou in France, where she enters the guardianship of her brother's friend Sir Triston de Brielle. Once in Poitou, Siri hopes to find employment in an illuminator's shop - until Triston unexpectedly snatches her heart away with a kiss.

Triston is a man of quiet honor and courage, but the guild he carries for the death of his late wife, Clothilde, has left him numb and hesitant to love again. Worse yet, Siri bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love. Or does she? Her merry laughter and twinkling eyes are very different from his late wife's shy smiles and quiet ways. Yet when he gazes into Siri's face, all he sees is Clothilde.

Then Triston's past returns to threaten them both. Will his tragic life with Clothilde be repeated with Siri? Trapped between the rivalry of the king's sons on the one hand and a neighbor out for vengeance on the other, Triston realizes it would be safer to send Siri away. But how can he bear to lose her again?

Siri is determined not to be cast off and not to live in another woman's shadow. She has illuminated many a priceless book with pen and paint. But can her own vibrant spirit illuminate the darkness in Triston's soul and make his heart beat for her alone?
Review:  This is a lovely, clean romance filled with plenty of action.

Siri travels from Vienna to Poitou in France to deliver herself to the guardianship of her brother’s friend, Triston.  Her traveling party is attacked by highway men shortly before arriving at their destination.  Then she is startled when her host kisses her in an “urgent caress.”  She is immediately attracted to the brooding Triston but dismayed to realize that his kiss was meant as a caress for his dead wife, Clothilde.  

Triston idolized his beautiful but unstable wife, Clothilde. He feels he caused her unhappiness and contributed to her accidental death. He has vowed to honor Clothilde forever and not to bed any other woman but his wife.  Although he is drawn to Siri it is hard for him to see past her striking resemblance to Clothilde.  He has a difficult time seeing Siri as the spirited and strong young woman she is.

Men are drawn to Siri’s beauty.  Triston’s young and foolish cousin, Acelet, becomes her ardent admirer.  Although he is supposed to be training to be a knight, it appears that he would rather dream of glory than work for it.  Triston’s neighbor and rival, Sir Raynor, charms Siri with his repeated attentions and overtures for reconciliation with Triston. It would be so much simpler if Siri could respond to this exuberant rogue but she is already lost in her reactions to Triston.  Then there is the arrogant, demanding brut, Lord Fauke, who is not beyond taking what he wants and who would love to ruin Triston’s family. 

Although Siri would love to make a family with Triston and his young, traumatized son, Perrin, she does not want to be a substitute for Clothilde.  Sadly it appears that Triston is so lost in his past vows that he could never love another even though there is a strong attraction to Siri. His solution is to force Siri into a suitable marriage as quickly as he can. Siri was trained in the arts of illumination and would like to find work rather than be remarried for convenience.

The story is filled with revenge and intrigue in the underlying battles between the vicious, lying and manipulative men who vie against each other for power and royal connections.  Siri is caught up in the intrigues as she struggles with her feelings for Triston. There is pain, fear and tenderness.  Triston is filled with confusion and guilt and distracted by his longings for Siri.  The romance is full of awareness but completely clean in its presentation.

The author does a wonderful job of portraying the medieval setting through visual and vocal details so you feel as though you are there.  The writing flows smoothly and the story and characters are consistent with their roles. Ms. DiPastena is an author who clearly takes time with her work and delivers a well-crafted and engaging story.
I was fortunate to win this book from a holiday party at The Sweetest Romance Authors blog.
I have the first book, Loyalty's Web, which I am offering as a giveaway along with Joyce's Blogoversary Spotlight Giveaway (next post).

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