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Carol Townend

REVIEW: Runaway Lady, Conquering Lord by Carol Townend

REVIEW: Runaway Lady, Conquering Lord by Carol Townend

Dear Ms. Townend,

026386815X.01.LZZZZZZZI’ve enjoyed several of your other books for Harlequin Historicals and was delighted when you contacted me offering a copy of your latest in the “Wessex Weddings” series for possible review. (Note: FTC discloser out of the way!) And the heroine is a Fallen Woman too. Even better. At first I didn’t realize that the hero is the same man used as a decoy in “An Honorable Rogue,” but once I recalled this, it upped the incentive to read the book.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Four years ago, Lady Emma of Fulford would never have thought she’d be sorry to lose her livelihood – washing dirty laundry in an icy cold river – that puts clothes on her back and a roof over her head. But then she also never thought she’d have an illegitimate child or not be living in her father’s noble household. A love affair gone bad has landed her where she is today and that somewhere is desperate to escape the abusive father of her child who has somehow tracked her down.

Her appeal for a job to the garrison commander of Winchester, Sir Richard of Asculf, initially gets her nowhere. They have a bit of a history since he’s a BFF of Emma’s brother in law, Adam, who was awarded her father’s lands. Richard takes a little pleasure in seeing her in such reduced circumstances since Emma apparently made life difficult for them after the Battle of Hastings fallout but he’s also honest enough to admit that she stirs his sexual interest. Not that he’s going to lay a hand on her as Adam would nail him for it.

But with Judhael making threats against her and terrified that he’ll discover the fact that they have a son, Emma is pushed to offer herself to Richard as a mistress with the hope that he’ll take her and her son with him when he returns to Normandy to settle an inheritance. Can these two find love as well as sexual feelings for each other during the journey?

I like a good medieval and am glad to see the subgenre making a bit of a comeback. But for me to be interested in it, I need more than the standard Norman knight (who’s usually a bastard) and willowy Saxon maiden snipping at each other in faux medieval dialogue. I mentioned before how much I appreciate the fact that you avoid this but let me say it again to emphasize how much this means to me. No “mayhaps!” No “tis, twases!” No irate Jayne!

I haven’t read the first book in the series “The Novice Bride,” but I gather that Emma is quite changed since then. Several mentions are made of how her viewpoints on various things have changed since her days as the daughter of a powerful Saxon thane. At this point, she’s taken refuge in an inn with several ‘ladies of the night’ and far from looking down her nose at them, she thinks of them as friends. She’s even tickled pink when they show up after her wedding to wish her well. She’s practical and not above doing what it takes to see to the safety and care of her child.

Richard is shown to be human. He’s a man who can appreciate Emma’s curves and who is also not adverse to enjoying, just a little bit, seeing her pay a bit for her past actions. But his honorable side quickly comes out on top and he goes to great lengths to help her and feels guilty when they succumb to passion. I figured some revelation was coming to explain his nightmares and at first rolled my eyes a little that a big Norman knight would be so anguished at what bothers him but then thought again about how any warrior might take a particular death hard and be haunted by it.

The book is also a bit of a road romance and I enjoyed reading about the journey conditions. Definitely not modern traveling with ‘en suite’ bath included and one can forget having any privacy. You handled some aspects of the story differently than I expected which in this case is a good thing. When a potential wife for Richard is mentioned, I had images of catfights and outraged foot stomping to dread but thankfully this didn’t come to pass. When Emma imagines she feels someone watching her during their trip, I thought of several scenarios involving showdowns between the men. Again, you took a different path.

Emma’s venture towards “please don’t go there” territory alarmed me somewhat. True, she is given one good reason but I would have preferred that she ask before she acted. And let’s be honest, Judhael displays more common sense about her choice of action than she did considering she also has the welfare of her child to consider.

“Runaway Lady, Conquering Lord” – and can’t we just tell this is a Harlequin title? – is a fairly fast read and is quite readable, which I consider to be two different things. It stays away from many of the subgenre’s conventions and features two likable lead characters. I think readers interested in medievals will welcome it to the list. B-

Jayne

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

Dear Author

REVIEW: His Captive Lady by Carol Townend

Dear Mrs. Townend,

book review When I read the description for your newest book, “His Captive Lady,” all I truly noticed is that it’s a medieval and set in the fens of East Anglia. It’s not until I began reading it that it dawned on me that it’s also a Saxon vs Norman story featuring a Saxon maiden and a Norman warrior. It was with a sigh of relief that I realized it was different from the other 1001 books with this combination of lead characters. For one thing, Erica is an outlaw on the run and despite the fact that Wulf is, yes, a bastard, he’s also half Saxon and more willing to use his head and negotiating skills to bring peace than just randomly hack at things with a sword.

Sweet baby Jesus but Erica was determined to end the generations old blood feud! That might be taking things just a little too far for modern sensibilities. I’m firmly with Wulf on that one. But, having said that, I’ve got to admire her courage for being willing to go just that far. As Guthlac says, she’s a true peace weaver.

As the book progressed, I began to notice that Erica isn’t that great a leader. In fact, it seems that everything she tries – to end the feud, to raise money, to get back to her housecarls, to escape from Wulf – goes terribly wrong. By the point when Wulf yells at her that she’s a fool, I had already reached that same conclusion. She’s certainly willing to try her best but I think that secretly her people will breath a sigh of relief that Wulf’s the one in charge now.

I do like how you bring religion into the book. Claiming sanctuary, the risk to one’s immortal soul for violating it, and the marriage ceremony were all central to the book. I found it interesting that Guthlac, the rebel POS, wouldn’t haul Erica out of the chapel but Wulf would. Would this perceived risk to his soul impact his marriage to Erica or not since they married under Saxon law? And why did Wulf initially make such a big deal about the fact that de Warene wouldn’t give his consent to the marriage if in the end, it didn’t matter so much anyway? Would people of this era have used the word “hell” as a swear word as we do? I’m just curious.

This is the way I like to see past groups/sets of characters revisited. We get to see Rose and Ben are happy in their lifestyle, still doing the things they love – music and sewing – but you don’t have to haul them into the main action of the story. What they do is important to the action of this book and not just an excuse to see them again. Thank you.

The setting and the weather of this book reminded me so much of Ariana Franklin’s “Mistress of the Art of Death” series. I’d love to see the fens. Or have they all been drained now? The whole idea of traveling mainly by boat or skates as an everyday occurrence is fascinating. And then the frozen, bone chilling cold felt immediate – something which is nice with the current heat and humidity of a Southern summer beating me down every time I go outside!

I like how you make the distinction between Saxons and Normans evident by the description of their dress and hairstyles. Erica’s costly silk veils, wonderfully dyed dresses and beautiful arm bands, bracelets and rings show her high status among the cultured Saxons. Wulf’s desire to cut his hair and shave reveal his Norman leanings. I thought it was a nice touch for Erica to be able to determine Wulf’s feelings for his long dead Saxon braider mother from how he treasured what she had made for him.

So, despite the fact that the plot for the book has been told any number of times, you do add enough twists to the cannon to make the story different. I liked that in the end, Erica makes the decision to “cut her losses” and stop resisting the inevitable Norman rule instead of having it forced down her throat. I just wish that you’d picked another name for the hero besides one that so strongly reminds me of Wulfgar. B-

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.