by Margo Maguire, historical (2006)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-083714-4
As much as I've mocked Avon in the past - not that I regret anything I've said about Avon - sometimes I'm glad when they sign up authors like Margo Maguire because I've never read a book by this author until now. Avon has a wide distribution that an author previously with Harlequin like Ms Maguire can only dream of, so it is thanks to Avon that I finally get my hands on a book by Margo Maguire. I don't know why this book is called The Bride Hunt though because the heroine is not a bride at the start of the story and she is kidnapped to be sold to slavery rather than to be wed.
This is a medieval romance, set in 1072. Lady Isabel de St Marie is dancing with her suitor Sir Roger when her home is attacked by Scots during the party her father threw for her and her sister. Her father, like many knights of William the Conqueror, are garrisoned along the Northumberland-Scottish border but Lord Kettwyck's castle was still being constructed and there are many weak points in the defense - as everyone learns now the hard way. Isabel, Sir Roger, and another knight, Anvrai d'Arques, are captured by the Scots. Anvrai resues the two and it's a dangerous trek home. Isabel and Anvrai fall in love, but alas, this time, the man doesn't want to believe.
Isabel is a great heroine. She's no superwoman, of course, so she's understandably terrified at the start of the story, but this lady has courage to do what it takes, even killing a man that threatens her in self-defense, to survive. She has an excellent sense of awareness about her environments, she can make healthy adjustments to situations, and she doesn't make herself a martyr of her situation. She doesn't want everyone to know she is suffering and she certainly doesn't believe she is no longer a lovable person - she will live on, and I really like that in Isabel de St Marie. She's a heroine who discovers how strong she can be and even finds love when she's trying to beat the odds. I can't ask for more in a romance heroine.
Anvrai, on the other hand, is an unfortunate stereotype. He's said to be badly scarred in the face and he wears an eyepatch to cover an empty eye socket. He also feels undeserving of love because as an eight-year old, he couldn't save his mother and sister safe from marauders. I understand his feeling of guilt but I have not much sympathy for him when he uses his past as an excuse to keep wanting to ditch Isabel even after he's bedded her. If he wants to be a martyr, he should at least have the decency to not give the heroine false hopes. That's only fair, right? I guess I should have realized what a self-absorbed whiny twit Anvrai is when on page 6, "'twas said Lady Isabel would be allowed to choose her own spouse from the throng of noblemen her father had assembled, and Anvrai counted himself lucky to have escaped Lord Kettwyck's notice". Oh, let me see - he's scarred all over the face, is said by all to be a brute, and wears an eyepatch. Oh yes, Isabel would kill for her father to pick such a man to marry her so yeah, lucky Anvrai indeed for not being picked by Isabel's father to be a suitor for his daughter.
It's too bad that Anvrai is incapable of breaking out of his own bubble of self-absorption or he will realize that Isabel is actually too good for him. It's even more annoying when Isabel still has to make it "her duty" to prove to Anvrai that he's worthy of her when there are only twenty or so pages left to the last page because the entire story is almost over and he's still not snapping out of it. Sheesh, he's already slept with her and broken her heart so many times, what more does he want? A medal?
Still, the hero who can't get over himself aside, this story is very nicely paced and there are exciting adventures to be had along the way. The heroine is a joy to follow as she discovers her strengths and weaknesses. If Ms Maguire has reined in Anvrai's pity party instead of dragging it to nearly the last page, The Bride Hunt will have everything to recommend it as an excellent romance to read and remember.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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