Friday, September 21, 2012

New Review: Elizabeth Stuart’s WHERE LOVE DWELLS – Captivating Tale of Love Among Enemies in 13th Century Wales

This book won the RITA Award for Best Historical in 1991 and was the beginning of several wonderful romances by this author. This one is one of those sweeping sagas that draw you in and hold you captive. Stuart is superb at integrating historical details and building characters with believable histories. Since she is Welsh and this is a tale set in Wales in the late 13th century, it was a labor of love for her.

This is the story of the battles between England and Wales as the Welsh fought to hold onto their independence and their lands. Of course, it was a losing battle. The story opens as Lady Elen of Teifi loses her family (and her betrothed) in a battle that leaves her the last of her ruling family, a Welsh princess. Escaping into the north woods, she helps her remaining people lead raids on the English knights. The man who has protected her all her life becomes the Welsh Fox the English dread. In a raid on her rebel camp, Elen is taken prisoner by Sir Richard of Kent, King Edward’s liege knight who has been given the assignment to rid Wales of the rebels. He doesn’t know the young woman he has captured is the last of the royal Welsh family. Instead, he thinks she is the mistress of the rebel known as the Welsh Fox.

The story of how Elen and Richard discover their love for each other notwithstanding they are enemies is a wonderful tale well told. However, there were some improbable occurrences early in the story that just didn’t make sense. I found that surprising for a RITA award winner until I read on—the book was so worth it. Here are some examples of what I found improbable:

--Richard assumes from her appearance that Elen is a “mere girl”--13 or 14 (she is really 16) -- yet he instantly concludes she must be the mistress of the Red Fox who he believes to be well over 30, and therefore he also concludes she is not a virgin. He doesn’t even ask her.
--Elen speaks beautiful French and Welsh, but Richard assumes she cannot speak English, too. He doesn’t even test his theory and speaks freely of his plans to capture the Fox in front of her. It seemed unlikely an experienced warrior would do that.
--Knowing she is the only hope of her people to birth the next generation of Welsh rulers, she plots to kill Richard by using seduction to gain his weapon, never thinking that if she slept with him, she would give birth to the children of her enemy. I just can’t see a patriot engaging in that behavior.
--Richard continues to believe Elen is the mistress of the Red Fox even after she told him her betrothed was slain by him in an earlier battle. If she was 16 and betrothed, she’d be no man’s mistress. Yet, Richard never even thinks about that inconsistency.

Stuart speaks of the Welsh and English as different “races.” Perhaps they considered themselves as such, however, they are all one race, Caucasian.

Even with these negatives, this is an amazing story and recommend it as a “keeper.”

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