Durand de Marle stood before his lovely wife's bier, unable
to mourn. Though his marriage had been the usual alliance,
Marion had been everything he'd thought he'd wanted. She
had born him two fine sons. He'd never felt the need to
stray. His wife, apparently, had felt otherwise.
Her death of childbed fever, birthing a daughter, had come
as a shock. When last he'd been home, at Ravenwood Castle,
they'd quarreled over her flirtatiousness and slept apart.
The child was not his. This he could not forgive.
His heart was cold, but far worse than Marion's betrayal,
was the thought that someone else he'd trusted had betrayed
him as well. Could the father have been his brother Luke,
dubbed the Lord of Skirts, or his handsome brother-in-law
who had been Marion's first choice? Marion's beauty had
even drawn the attention of the king. Durand could no
longer trust anyone.
Then Christina entered the chapel to lay a garland around
his wife. Something about her, her look, her scent, her
gentle nature, stirred him to life and gave him hope.
Before she'd departed, he'd asked her who she
was....his 'daughter's' wet nurse, the woman who now
nourishes Marion's child, a woman he soon learns could
definitely nourish his empty soul.
Though Durand stirs Christina's heart, she is not free to
love him. She is the wife of the merchant Simon le Gros.
She is childless, having lost their second daughter just
days after her birth. Though the marriage is clearly
neither happy nor pleasant, Durand's daughter, Felice,
fills the emptiness in her. She loves the child dearly. She
could easily come to love the child's 'father' as well.
Durand has shown far more than a passing interest, but
Christina is determined to honor her sacred vows, even
though it breaks her heart.
Durand strives to respect Christina's honor, but finds her
increasingly difficult to resist. Simon le Gros is not an
honorable man. He is faithless and dishonest, and when he
unexpectedly dies for his crimes, Durand is given reason to
hope. Yet, sorrowfully, a relationship between them could
never last. Durand has a duty to his king, and to his two
sons, to make another marriage of convenience, an alliance
of wealth and property. Will short stolen moments be
enough to last a him a lifetime? Could he bear seeing
Christina in the arms of another, perhaps even the man who
had fathered Felice?
Like him, King John trusts no one. When he seizes his
lords' sons against their fathers' obedience to his will,
the die is cast. Durand must decide whether to bow to the
kings wishes, to marry a woman he does not love and protect
his son's birthright, or defy him and fight to give all
three children a legacy of love and trust, in exile with
Ann Lawrence has shown her versatility as a writer,
alternating between a virtual fantasy series and her
medieval historical romances. The common denominator
between the two is the strength or her heroines, and the
courage of her heroes, as they fight seemingly
insurmountable odds to grab the brass ring.
Copyright © 2001
Reviewed by Leslie Tramposch
Posted June 28, 2001
2001 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice
Award Winner - Best Medieval Historical
Forgive the sins of my wife,' he prayed. 'Forgive the winter cold of my heart.' For as he knelt in the darkened chapel by his wife's lifeless body, he knew the babe she had birthed could not be his. The scent of spring--blossoms, wet leaves, damp earth--preceded the alluring woman into the chapel. As she honored his dead wife with garlands, she seemed to bring him fresh hope, just as she nourished the little girl his wife had left behind. Even though she was not his, could it be wrong to reach out for life, for love? As he watched her nurse the child in the walled courtyard whre his wife had met her lovers, he could not deny his longing for her lush kiss, could not ignore her urging to turn away from yesterday's sorrows and embrace tomorrow's sweetness.