Friday, September 7, 2012

New Review: Tamara Leigh’s BLACKHEART – Medieval Romance that Does Not Disappoint!

Tamara Leigh has written a classic--a real "keeper" in medieval romances and I'm ranking it up there with the best.

The story is of Gabriel de Vere, the oldest son of a Norman lord who has rejected him as his heir to their barony in England because on her deathbed his mother confessed to having had other lovers. Since Gabriel and his younger brother Blase have her dark looks, the father wonders if they are really his. He chooses instead the fairer third son. Gabriel leaves, vowing to make it on his own. He succeeds, becoming a powerful knight fighting in the Crusades and gaining the favor of King Richard who gives him a castle and estate in Normandy.

Gabriel’s close friend, Bernart Kinthorpe, blames him unfairly for a wound that robbed him of his manhood in the Crusades. When Bernart returns home, he marries his betrothed Julianna without telling her they can have no real marriage. Since Bernart cannot consummate his marriage to Julianna, he decides to gain a son with another man's seed. Out of revenge, he picks Gabriel, so that he can take from him what he feels Gabriel robbed him of--the capacity to sire an heir. So, he lures Gabriel to his castle in England with a high stakes tournament and then, using threats against her much loved sister, forces Julianna to go to Gabriel's bed in the dark of night disguised as a castle wench. Julianna complies, though she is against the whole idea. (She is a faithful, albeit virgin, wife.) Believing Bernart's lies about Gabriel, Julianna initially has no feelings for Gabriel other than disdain, but in their moments of passion over the week he's at her husband's castle and as she discovers him to be a man of courage and honor, her heart is given to Gabriel. When Gabriel discovers the ruse, he vows to claim any child that results and have his revenge on both Julianna and Bernart who he sees as co-conspirators.

The author captures well the 12th century, balancing the language of the time with a need to be understandable to modern readers. Hence we know clearly what is going on but we know we are back in the time of Richard the Lion Heart. Great attention is given to castle life, preparation for battle, food, dress, customs and the history of the time so that you feel you are living it. But since this is a romance, the love story is central and this is a good one that kept me reading late into the night (always a good sign).

The characters are well defined and you care about them, the love scenes realistic, and the tale very well told. You won't regret reading this one!

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