Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Heart of a Warrior by Betty Davidson

David D'Aubere is a Knight without lands or a home, but he has sided with Henry VI, the side of the Lancastrians. Or to be more accurate, with Henry's wife, the Queen, Margaret. In exchange for David's killing of Richard, Duke of York, the Queen rewards him with the Castle of Glenwood, the lands of the Earl of Cornwich. The Earl's sons have all been killed in battle. However, he does have a daughter, and so the Queen weds David to her by proxy, with herself standing in for the bride, making him Cornwich's son-in-law and inheritor to his vast estate, lands, and title.

David is given leave to travel to his new lands, to bed his wife and hopefully get her with an heir so he can return to the war and continue winning battles for his chosen monarch. But a near-assassination by a maid who turns out to be a Yorkist spy, and the revelation that his bride is actually mentally handicapped, sets David on a dangerous path: He cannot force himself on his bride, seeing that as dishonorable, so he plots to force Riley Snowdon, the Yorkist assassin, into the role of Leman and make her bear an heir for him, which he can foist off on everyone as that of his wife's, and once she has done so, he will set Riley free.

She reluctantly agrees to the plan, upset that she was unable to do away with the former Earl of Cornwich, whose family killed hers when they were banished from court and had their lands forfeit to the crown. With nothing left to lose, most members of the Snowdon family have sworn eternal vengeance against the Cornwich family, with Riley, and Gertie, her mentor, posing as wenches working in the Castle kitchens. Now that she is taken prisoner, Riley would rather die than give up any information to her captor, but when faced with David's bargain, she agrees, seeing it as the only way out of her predicament.

But both soon run into trouble. First, Riley is ordered about by Gertie, who gives her a pouch of an herb that will keep her from getting pregnant, and soon, Riley feels that she is getting too close to David. For himself, he cannot keep his hands off her, and when he discovers her trick with the herb, he is furious, but cannot stay angry with her for long, even when she runs away. He also discovers that the people he pledged to serve care little about him, just his ability to win battles. When they discover that he has Riley and will not give her up, they besiege his manor house, causing him to renounce his allegiance and support the Yorkists instead, allowing him to keep Riley as his own.

But members of Riley's family, specifically Gertie, want to see David killed for his crime of killing Richard of York, and trust in the Lord's son to do the dirty work for them. But will Edward want to kill David, or have him work on the side of the Yorkists more? Can Riley and David really end up having each other forever, or is it only a dream that can never be?

This was an unsuccessful book for me, mainly because I never really connected with the two protagonists. David D'Aubere seemed to care more for money and power at the beginning than anything else, but redeemed himself slightly when he refused to force himself on a mentally retarded woman. Riley starts off as a vengeful terrorist and putative assassin, then ends up falling in love with her target. Neither were all that sympathetic to me, so I never really found myself caring for them or wishing they'd end up together (well, perhaps only in a 'they deserve each other' kind of way).

I didn't find myself uplifted by their story or give much of a care about them, and that's the worst kind of failure a story can have, really, not to engage the reader. I give this one a big thumbs down.

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