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If I had the option, I would have rated this 4 1/2 stars. I really enjoyed the start of Deacroix's new series revolving around a Templar treasure from the Holy Land being transported back to Europe. The narration was well done and added to my enjoyment of the story. This first book features Gaston, who has recently inherited his brother's French title and Ysmaine who has buried two husbands yet remains untouched. Gaston is asked by his order, the Templars, to complete one last task - transport a treasure from Jerusalem which is at risk to headquarters in Paris. Ysmaine finds her self in desperate straights; her maid is extremely ill, and she has no money. Gaston observes Ysmaine in a church and offers her some money which she uses to pay for medicine for her maid. Deciding it might be better to return home already wed, Gaston offers to marry Ysmaine even after she explains her grooms have not lived past the wedding night. The couple weds and then joins a party of another Templar Knight (Wulfe), a merchant, and a nobleman returning to France and his father's death bed. Wulfe and Guston become uneasy allies in the pursuit of ensuring the safe transport of the treasure. Delacroix provides glimpses of the area during the groups flight to the coast and also midieval Venice. I enjoyed the relationship development between Ysmaine and Gaston and also both's willingness to sacrifice to ensure the treasure would arrive safely and for each other. Wulfe and Christina are interesting secondary characters who will be featured in their own book. Delacroix is a master of the midieval setting that feels authentic but yet the characters still remain relatedable to the modern reader. I am looking forward to future entries in this new series.
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The Crusader's Bride is a compelling tale by Claire Delacroix that travels from Jerusalem to Venice and then to Paris. What I love most about Claire's writing is the character development. The Crusader at the center of this story is Gaston who is not only a strong and loyal warrior for the Church, but he is also a compassionate and fair master to those who serve under him. The Bride in the story is Ysmaine, who is determined, selfless, and every inch Gaston's equal.
The story begins with Gaston learning of his brother's death. He has inherited his father's estate in France and must now head home after spending the last 15 years serving the Templars in the Holy Land. Gaston wastes no time in finding Ysmaine at the Church (a down on her luck noblewoman who traveled to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage) and he takes her to be his wife before journeying home to France. Thankfully Gaston's new wife Ysmaine is no simpering young maiden and she doesn't hesitate to speak up and let Gaston know her mind during the trip.
This is the first book in The Champions of Saint Euphemia saga, which involves a company of Knights Templar who are chosen to deliver the most prized possessions in the Templar treasury for safekeeping. As part of the Templars releasing Gaston of his vow to serve them, he must deliver one of the treasures to Paris. However, there is a traitor among the traveling party who doesn't hesitate to kill in an attempt to steal this treasure. Ysmaine and Gaston must not only protect the treasure but also keep each other safe from the traitor's clutches. It was fun trying to figure out who the traitor was!
Tim Gerard Reynolds narrated this Audible version of the story and he did a great job. He clearly differentiated between male and female voices and changed the tempo in the performance when warranted. I definitely enjoyed listening to this audiobook and highly recommend it. I can't wait for the next narrated book in the series!
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