12th century England: Two men vie for the throne: King Stephen the usurper and young Duke Henry the rightful heir. Amid civil and private wars, alliances are forged, loyalties are betrayed, families are divided, and marriages are made.
For four years, Lady Annyn Bretanne has trained at arms with one end in mind—to avenge her brother’s murder as God has not deemed it worthy to do. Disguised as a squire, she sets off to exact revenge on a man known only by his surname, Wulfrith. But when she holds his fate in her hands, her will wavers and her heart whispers that her enemy may not be an enemy after all.
Baron Wulfrith, renowned trainer of knights, allows no women within his walls for the distraction they breed. What he never expects is that the impetuous young man sent to train under him is a woman who seeks his death—nor that her unveiling will test his faith and distract the warrior from his purpose.
Dear Ms. Leigh,
It was one of our Daily Deals that brought this book to my attention. Since I hadn’t read many medieval era books lately, I decided to take a chance on it. It was mainly the description not being “wallpaper” that got me to click on the buy button as revenge plots usually don’t pull me in. I’ll also be honest and say up front that I almost tossed in the towel early on but ended up glad I persisted.
Okay, you have to just go with some of the opening stuff. Annyn loves to run around and do guy stuff rather than girl stuff and she’s flat chested with boyish shape. Fine. Her reasons for seeking revenge do make some kind of sense in that age of “might = right” and trial by combat and God will allow the righteous person to win. Her brother’s death is suspicious and given the circumstances, I can see why she’d think Wulfrith has something to hide, at the very least.
So war has finally come to her castle, Henry has won, the writing is on the wall and he’s going to have his way. His way is to award her hand in marriage and the holding to his choice knight. Annyn isn’t thrilled, sees a way out and seizes it. She’ll not only escape the drunkard Henry intends to hand her over to but can go after the man she holds responsible for her brother’s death – though why she didn’t before is strange if she wants revenge.
Be that as it may off she goes to this truly bizarre world of no women. None at all. Horrid creatures aren’t needed to muck up the place with their nastiness. It’s like a tree house with a “Boyz Only” sign hung up. Womenz are only good for sex and babies. Right. So bound up, with chopped hair and not nearly as much useful boy fighting training as she thought she had, she arrives. Now she and I both thought that this place would resemble something out of a nightmare, a medieval frat house but Garr’s iron discipline keeps the whole crew in order, ship shape and Bristol fashion. While I do like chick-in-pants books, I’m not a fan of sword yielding maidens but here a young man with a similar build was expected, Annyn slips into his place and Garr sees what he expected which I can believe.
Her opening senight there is one disaster after another in which Garr deems her “not worthy.” He’s being kind in this assessment. She’s a mouthy wreck. But she is persistent, I’ll give her that. Everything she does is a mess, she’s constantly being corrected, she’s surrounded by nothing but XY chromosomes and somehow avoids being caught out. I will admit to skimming some of these training scenes as the purpose seemed to be more of the same – she gains respect for the training Garr and his minions dole out and he watches her doggedly keep at it.
It is at this point that the political issues of the day barge back into the story and Annyn does pose some intelligent questions to Garr about his allegiances and why he keeps them. He’s impressed, I’m impressed and I decide to plow on with the story.
Fate will of course have its way when Annyn makes her move – finally! – and, of course mucks it up. And it’s here just when I was ready to abandon the story that I get a glimmer that this may be worth continuing. With her unveiling as a woman, Annyn seems to get some agency. Garr finally admires her grit and stamina now that he knows she’s one of those horrid womenz creatures who are supposed to be so weak.
But it’s halftime in the book and some fee fees need to be started so suddenly they start to have them for each other in, ya know, sexual ways. No, this didn’t make too much sense to me beyond the fact that this is a romance and those feelings need to get a move on. Still, part two beckoned with a tantalizing promise of meeting the women in Garr’s life.
I do like the Wulfrith women. Isobel has a truly tragic past and deeply regrets that this has been used to muck up her sons. Sisters Beatrix and Gaenor are all eyes and ears around their eldest brother’s prisoner and end up learning a thing or two about how women can influence their lives after all in this men’s world.
Annyn and Garr come by their feelings about marriage honestly given their family’s respective pasts. There are lots of secrets and past events which are “unveiled” during course of the story. Some events less savory than others but main one is seated in history and the raging civil war. Through the course of tale, Annyn grows up as she faces the fact that her beliefs were wrong thus allowing her to finally see Garr as he is–>twu wuv. I am glad that it was Garr’s actions and those of others that got Annyn to believe in his innocence rather than “I love him so he must be innocent.”
Annyn gets a bit of my respect back when she faces up to what she did, tried and wanted to do and tries to see to justice for her man who helped her. She also verbally gives as good as Garr’s squires try to mete out to her. And while she’s the first out of the gate to utter Those Three Words, it’s obvious to me that he at least has some feelings when the rushed marriage makes Garr risk excommunication from it to save Annyn. He also confesses his failings in not “seeing” what was under his eyes the whole time. I do like the way Garr turns the tables on Henry with one thing Henry wants above all others. Bully for his mother being the smart one who points out that weapon.
I’m impressed by the portrayal of faith in the story and the characters’ lives. It’s something that they live with, feel and believe in and I can see how it affects the way they see life and view the consequences of what they do. But, there’s no preaching going on here. None of them is trying to convert me. There are some crises of faith, some moments of doubt, but I expect this from people raised in the church and in a time where lack of faith would have seemed bizarre. Sunita mentioned this in her review of Piper Huguley’s “The Preacher’s Promise” and I think the same thing fits here.
Initially, wasn’t sure I wanted to continue with series but now I just might. Once Annyn got some agency and started to show her own smarts, the book picked up a great deal. I certainly want to see more of Isobel Wulfrith and hope that her daughters have inherited her intelligence. B-