In Rexanne Becnel’s award-winning debut novel, an innocent noblewoman is forced to honor a betrothal agreement with a ruthless warrior who is her family’s most bitter enemy. Lady Lilliane was betrothed to Corbett of Colchester at the age of fourteen, long before their families became sworn enemies. Years later, Corbett unexpectedly turns up to claim his beautiful bride and, by contract, her valuable dowry: Castle Orrick. Suspecting some royal intrigue lies behind Corbett’s sudden desire for this marriage, Lilliane vows she will never lie in his bed. But what fate awaits Lilliane - and all England - if she resists him? And what darker fate if she surrenders?
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I liked this, but it had issues. Mostly being that the h was TSTL. I understand this was Becnel's first novel, so I'm willing to give her another try, because there were things I enjoyed.
The audio was very good. The narrator did a great job.
I liked seeing the H, who was very much all about the marriage being one of convenience and duty becoming besotted with the h and pining away in his ale when he thought she loved William instead of him. He was definitely brought down a notch from his earlier cold/calculating attitude. Of course the h was oblivious as is usually the case.
The book did address some real historical happenings and that's always interesting.
The hero, Sir Corbett of Colchester, was the 2nd son of a Baron in Northern England. He'd gone to the crusades to earn his glory and fortune, since his older brother had inherited Colchester. He became the favorite of King Henry III's son, Edward while in the East. When Henry died and Edward was to ascend the throne, he sent Corbett back to England to ferret out plots brewing in N. England. There were Barons in that part of England who thought they could break away and do their own thing. Using Corbett as a spy was a solid plan, since Colchester was in N. England, but.... when he got back home he found that big brother was acting cagey and obviously didn't want him around. That put a snag in his plans to carry out the king's orders. Camping out with all his men would be kinda suspicious.
Then Corbett remembers that a decade before he'd been betrothed to Lilliane of Orrick, the Barony right next door. At the time she'd been a skinny, awkward 14yr old and he was in his early 20's. I think they met once. Since then, their families had been in a blood feud because the Colchesters believed that Lilliane's father had murdered theirs (he didn't). After that skirmish sort of died down, Corbett had left England for the Crusades and hadn't thought of Lilliane in years. It was assumed by all that the feud had put an end to the betrothal. However, the agreement was never officially broken, leaving Corbett with the opportunity to claim his rights to the still unmarried Lilliane and secure a fortified barony in the perfect spot. Since the Baron of Orrick had no sons, his holdings would go to whomever his oldest daughter married and that was Lilliane. Therefore, he brazens his way into the keep and demands Lilliane's hand in marriage. Lilliane's father was secretly thrilled. He had always thought Corbett would be the perfect person to rule Orrick when he was gone and believed he'd be a good match for Lilliane despite the feud. He knew he didn't have long to live and wanted his daughter and lands secured.
So, obviously, this was a political marriage as pretty much all marriages among the ruling classes were at that time. Daughters were strategic pieces and love matches were rare. That was reality and Lilliane had supposedly been raised to accept this and her inevitable role as Mistress of the Keep to whomever her father chose. Still, her father obviously loved her and wanted her to have a good husband. He wasn't the type to sell her to the devil. But, she was mad at him for turning down a proposal of another man (William) several years before and had even 'run away' to a convent for several years and refused to come home. However, she'd returned at the urging of her youngest sister to help prepare for her wedding. Lilliane was supposedly a master at organizing the household and keeping things running smoothly and she did seem very competent. I thought we'd have a great heroine. Then Corbett rides in and she looses every ounce of common sense she supposedly has.
Readers will be split on Corbett. He was arrogant, domineering, and uncompromising. If you don't like the dominant alpha, you'll be angry with him and maybe hate him. Lilliane's father had agreed to the match, so he didn't see that she had any say in the matter and her father backed him. He was VERY pleased, however, when he realized that the skinny, awkward girl he remembered was now a great beauty and publicly treated her with all the courtesy a lady could expect and more attentiveness than most brides of convenience probably received. Then again, he made it clear that he didn't give a crap about her feelings on the marriage. Once he realized how desirable she was, he thought they could be content together if she'd just accept her place and obey him unquestionably.
Frustrating? Hell yeah! But, I always try my best to imagine the mindset of the times and how men and women likely behaved. I don't expect or want historical heroines to behave like 21st century women. I like to see how a shrewd, intelligent woman manages to survive and thrive within the confines of her society, not just stomp her foot at the unfairness of it all and pull outrageous stunts which gain her NOTHING.
Corbett put up with A LOT of crap from her that would have easily earned her a beating from almost any other man. He never hurt her and was always mindful of her position and helped to reinforce/maintain her status at times when many men would have drug her by her hair through the center of town. There was one forced seduction scene which may offend some readers, however, as pre-2000 medieval heroes go, he was a pussy cat. And obviously began to fall in love with her quite quickly. Although he wasn't vocal about it. He was a guarded person and thickly embroiled in the top-secret business of the king.
Lilliane wasn't an unlikeable or mean person, but she didn't seem very bright at times. She allowed the man she'd once wanted to marry (William) to cause so much trouble in her marriage and was so blind to it. When he showed up at her sister's wedding and hit on Lilliane with his pregnant wife nearby and THEN didn't give a crap when the pregnant wife died in childbirth, I'd start to think yeah 'Dad was right, he's a d-bag and I'm glad we never married.' The wife, who Lilliane befriended, even asked Lilliane to please raise her child if it was a girl since she knew she wasn't going to survive and William would not want or treat the child well unless it was male. Even though Lilliane wasn't in love with William anymore and in love with Corbett, she still didn't mistrust him or realize all the manipulation and that he was obviously trying to steal her away. I realize she'd been sheltered in life, but come on! A man embraces you right beneath your husband's nose and begs you to go away with him and then lies to your husband and says he's been sleeping with you. Wouldn't you be pissed? Outraged? Ready to throttle Sir William. Nope, she just seemed confused as to why William was doing these things. When faced with the accusation of infidelity she actually said "why would he say such a thing?" Duh!
What she does in the last part of the book is so OTT stupid. Well meaning, but illogical on every level to the point of throwing the book across the room. I suppose this proves men don't care if a woman has any brains as long as she's beautiful and good in bed