Silken Threads
by Patricia Ryan, historical (1999)
Topaz, $5.99, ISBN 0-451-40827-6

Silken Threads is my first Pat Ryan book, and I must say it's a better-than-average read. This novel manages to keep me totally absorbed with the going-ons in Joanna Chapman's house in medieval West Cheap District of London, despite the fact that very little happens until the grand climax. I can't second-guess anything except for the disappointingly familiar relationship arc.

Graeham Fox, intrepid investigator and landless man, is promised his overlord's daughter in marriage and lands and a title if he can secret out the woman's twin sister from her abusive husband. He stumbles, is almost killed, and has to take up lodging in the house opposite his target's. The house belongs to Joanna Chapman, widow of a philandering cheating scum that has her jaded about all men's good intentions (here we go again...). However,as Graeham watches from his rear window daily, and Joanna walks around the rest of the house, they couldn't help but to be attracted to each other.

The relationship starts out built on lies. She lets him think she's married. He lets her think he's ... well, not doing what he's actually doing. As the story moves on, my dread of the Big Misunderstanding explosion and getting caught in the fall-out gives way to being fascinated by the characters populating this book. Joanna is a sympathetic character who refuses to go down despite her bad lot in life. There's a very tragic leper whose disease gives him the nobility and courage to sacrifice himself for others - he makes me cry in pity and gladness for his courage. Oh Thomas, you are a good, good man. There's also an unnecessary but interesting subplot about Joanna's suitor and his third-cousin he really loves but is just too blockheaded to defy his parents and church to marry her. And the story is very interesting.

And I must say the part where Graeham watches - unwittingly and reluctantly - Joanna taking a bath is surprisingly erotic. Pass me the iced water.

Notice I haven't said anything about Graeham. I don't like him. The book's last three chapters reveal what a miserable bumbling coward he is. I want him to beg, grovel for using Joanna so. Alas, he never did. Oh well, good thing this book can stand without Graeham.

Silken Threads is a slow but paradoxically exciting, functioning better as a medieval story than a compelling romance. It's good, I really like it, probably more if Graeham is a more trustworthy fellow. Fresh and original... how many medievals do you know that don't have Sir Vengeful Knight Kidnapping Brianna/Rhiannon/Alys the Wee Tomboy Enemy's Daughter or Sir Norman vs Lady Saxon The Daughter of The Castle Lord Disposed by Norman Virile Knight? For that alone, Silken Threads gets my vote.

Rating: 84

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