Friday, July 18, 2008

Dragon's Knight by Catherine Archer

Lady Aislynn Greatham is concerned for her brother, Chistian, who left the home where he had but recently returned from the Crusades to go off on a mysterious mission and didn't tell anyone, his family included, where he was going. Desperate for help, and hoping Christian's friends could help them where others could or would not, she writes to them, hoping they can track down her missing brother, or find clues to where he went when others could not.

Jarrod Maxwell answers her call, and she finds him distracting from the first. But his cold attitude towards her puts her off, and she finds herself glad that she is already betrothed to her childhood friend Gwyn, a Welshman, despite the fact that he does not inspire in her the same sort of feelings that Jarrod does. Jarrod, too, finds himself being affected by her, but coldly denies that part of himself as he goes about, questioning everyone who might have had conversations with Christian.

At last, he finds a merchant who said Christian was asking about a village named Ashcroft, which the merchant knows is far away... near the border with Scotland. Jarrod decides to ride for Ashcroft, but when Aislynn's father has a dream of Christian lying near death, and hears that he must be tended by the fairest one, he tells Jarrod that he must take Aislynn with him on his journey, as there is no woman fairer than Aislynn. Jarrod reluctantly agrees, seeing no choice but to have this warm, beautiful, distracting woman with him on his journey.

As they travel, Aislynn slowly realizes that she is falling in love with the cold and stoic knight. This perturbs her, mainly because of her promise to wed Gwyn, but she is soon persuaded that the pleasure she feels when Jarrod touches her is true and real. He can barely forgive her prying into his past, first with himself, and then with his friend Sadona, wife of a fellow knight who has opened an inn with her husband, and from whom Jarrod begs shelter.

The wounds of the past still hurt Jarrod deeply, and it is only after their mission is done, Aislynn is freed from her promised marriage and his wounds have been salved that Jarrod can be free to both love and marry her. But can he overcome the hurts of his past to love Aislynn freely, or will she forever have only part of his heart?

I liked this book, although the hero's name unfortunately reminded me of an online game I was once in, as there was also a character with the name of Jarrod Maxwell. The game, unfortunately, ended badly, so it added a not-so-welcome element to the book. Another problem was the hero's cold nature. Even when Jarrod realizes he loves Aislynn, he is very cold-blooded about it, and this was something of a turn-off for me.

The story, on the other hand, was excellent, and the slow delving into the hero's background was fascinating. The use of other characters to explain, at least from their own points of view, what the hero had experienced in the past, was very realistic, and it forces the hero to explain himself to the heroine to quiet her questions.

I realized after I read it that I had read the companion book about Aislynn's brother, Christian a few years ago, and this is apparently the third book in the series about the three friends who went on Crusade together: Christian, Jarrod and Simon Warleigh. In fact the third name also sounds familliar, so I have probably read that one as well.

If you are looking for a good medieval historical romance, but don't have a great deal of time, this book could be for you. It has a few flaws and some great points, but for most people, this would even out at good.

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