Dear Mrs. Admirand,
One of the first true “romance” novels I ever read was the granddaddy of all Saxon/Norman pairings, the groundbreaking “The Wolf and the Dove” by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Since then, I’ve read my share of (usually bastard) Norman knight x (usually a healer) nubile Saxon maid. At this point in my reading life, it takes something different to interest me in this tired old chestnut of a plot. I don’t want to read about any more illegitimate men with hidden angst who end up taming the fiery, foot stamping, half dressed young thang pictured on the book cover. That’s why when I read the description of your novel “The Saxon Bride,” the fact that the heroine is an older woman with grown sons who forces the marriage with an (also older) Norman knight made me sit up and take notice. Wow, I thought, something different. Let’s see how this plays out.
So, okay the setting is nothing unusual: 1072 England, filled with knights in chain mail but right off the bat things looked good since you set it in Northumbria. Thank you, there are English counties north of Yorkshire. And here’s a heroine who doesn’t take any lip from anyone and also who doesn’t try to swing a broadsword or make threats or ultimatums. She knows that in order to achieve her goal of smoothly integrating the new Lord and his Norman knights into Merewood Castle and not having the local Saxons, as well as her family, tossed out on their hineys, these two groups have got to have respect for each other as well as get along. Lady Eyreka works tirelessly to see that this happens. She doesn’t have hissy fits over trivialities, she tries to be sure the Normans are treated well and that no one has any reason for hard feelings. Not everyone makes it easy for her but I found that very understandable.
Augustin de Chauret might be painted a little extremely as the widower who has locked his heart in a box after the death of his dainty, delicate first wife but he’s also practical and knows when to say “yes” to his King. He’s also determined to be a fair man though one who knows his due. I like that he’s willing to listen to Eyreka and her sons about how to manage the people and land he’s just been given. He doesn’t know a heck of a lot about farming but he’ll heed those who do and work to see that the taxes are paid and that his peasants have enough to eat.
I thought that the arrangement agreed to by Eyreka and Augustin was a little cockeyed though it did play into the plot and they did quickly come to see that it wasn’t going to work. The Norman knights seemed a little too willing to overlook slights though I thought their initial coolness towards Eyreka was reasonable. Augustin’s daughter, Angelique, came across as a ten year old. I like that she’s a little more worldly wise than a modern child would be since she’s so close to the usual age of marriage, and also that she’s a bit of a brat since her father has spoiled her. But she shapes up nicely and in a timely fashion. Oh, and thanks for not rushing the story and having it all occur within a week. As well, the background details give a flavor for the age without getting too icky. One nitpick of mine is faux medieval dialogue but thankfully you went easy on that and I just mentally changed all the mayhaps. Euww, that word is enough to make me shudder. I could tell that this book is part of a series but you gave enough clues that I could sort out what happened without letting that story take over this one.
So, all in all, I’m pleased that I tried this book and would be willing to read more of your stories. A solid B grade.