Leonie of Bosewood is a halfling, caught between the Faerie and human worlds yet belonging in neither. She does her best to hide her magical abilities, mindful that being different in medieval England is tantamount to death. But her untamed spirit and wild beauty are like a beacon to the one man whose attention could expose her.... Philippe le Peregrine has devoted his life to the crown, his strength and courage winning him the king’s gratitude. In return he asks but one indulgence: never to be forced to take a wife. Because Philippe hides his own secret, a curse condemning him to celibate solitude, he faces life without the one woman whose allure he cannot ignore. And yet as unseen forces gather, preparing for a mystical battle for dominion over the human world, Leonie and Philippe realize that only together are they strong enough to conquer the engulfing evil.
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I had read one print book by Delle Jacobs before and thought I'd give this one a try. Overall, I wasn't disappointed. While there was nothing about this book that made me want to rush out and tell all my friends, it was a nice solid story and a polished audio performance.
This book is a historical fantasy romance that takes place during the rule of William the 2nd, not too long after his father, William the Conqueror won England for the Normans. The setting is in the north of England, in the borderlands with Scotland. What really impressed me was that the author used real historical figures. Indeed, William II (aka Rufus or the Red King) and Robert DeMowbray, Earl of Northumbria are both real historical figures and both were major characters in this book. Given this is historical fantasy, I was awed at how she was able to keep her history so accurate while working in the fantasy elements.
The romance, on the other hand, comes off as just a bit cheesy, but perhaps that's just because the author tries to stay true to the language of the time. Leonie is half fae, but also a great heiress with many holdings in this critical area. Phillippe is a widower, and is one of the king's most trusted knights. He lost his wife in a battle with a sorcerer, and believing himself cursed, has vowed to never wed, or even bed, again. It's hard to tell more without spoilers, but there are fae, shades, sorcerers, magical hounds and all sorts of fantasy elements included in the book, and it made for a fun read.
The narrator had the perfect cadence and accent for this book, and the result was a professionally done performance.
3.75 stars, promoted to 4 for Simon Vance's superb narration. I enjoyed this fantasy romance more than expected, but that very graphic sex scene startled me. It seemed out of place, if spicy. That's really my only quibble. I think this author should try writing straight fantasy, with only a thread of romance running through it. She seems to have a good feel for fantasy, a strong knowledge base for it.
No spoilers here!
WRITING: The story is told in 3rd person via heroine and hero. I liked how this fantasy flirted with some factual aspects of Medieval England (the real king Willaim/Rufus, King Malcolm, etc). The writing is good quality, the protagonists likable, the setting vivid enough (especially Summer Land and Castle Bosewood). The plot is linear in sequence yet somewhat twisty and unpredictable. The romance / relationship was different than the norm because the heroine and the hero were both cursed or bespelled, in different ways, making obstacles to trust and love. I liked how that was resolved. Liked how the heroine (faerie-human named Leonie) stubbornly fought off the spell that distorted her memories. Good scene. And vivid fright nights and battle scenes.
TONE: The story isn't funny or lighthearted, but the banter between Philippe and Leonie has a slightly witty edge. The feeling throughout is somewhat grim-dark (black sorcery, mind control, monsters, gholens, feral hounds of hell, etc), but always with a hopeful overtone. There are some heartwarming secondary relationships, as well as a good feeling between the lovers (eventually). It ends happily, as I knew it would, having decided this is definitely a romance.
SETTING: The story is set in about 1090 England, under the reign of King William ii (aka Rufus, aka William the Red). He's William the Conqueror's son. French-speaking Normans are intermingling and intermarrying with the Germanic-based Anglo-Saxon English. Tensions flare across the land and the king doesn't really trust any of his knights, except maybe Philippe de Peregrine (aka the falcon, the hero). Meanwhile, Scottish raiders, under King Malcolm, skirmish with the English. In some ways, the politics and witchcraft / sorcery felt like Macbeth.
SECONDARY CHARACTERS: Rufus (William ii) King of England, the Earl de Mowbray (aka The Black Earl, aka the Earl of Northumbria), Bishop Durham, Lord Fulk of Durham (Warrior for God), an old crone, a young boy named Sigge, a maid named Ealga, and a big dog named Ilse.