FOR MY LADY'S HEART
Berkley, Updated Special Edition, 1993,
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
Sir Ruadrick "Ruck" d'Angeleterre of Wolfscar, an English knight, loses his wife Isabelle to the church when she declares herself a prophetess. Stunned, Ruck is forced to pay an endowment that costs him everything: his war horse, his sword, his armor, and all his coins. A proud noblewoman carrying a white falcon witnesses Ruck's humiliation and swindling at the hand of the church leaders. Later, she sends him a message with two emeralds and a warning to "get thee far hence ere nyt falleth." Though it burns his pride, he is forced to accept her aid to re-outfit himself for service. Now, known only as the Green Knight, with a white falcon as his emblem, he seeks to restore his honor and his fortune.
The widowed Princess Melanthe, with a white falcon for a pet, presents herself to the world as a beautiful, but cold-hearted woman. Her facade hides the truth she dare not reveal; she is in constant peril of Riata assassins and a dangerous suitor, Gian Navona. An heiress of the vast estates of Monteverde and Bowland, Melanthe is caught in the middle of political games played by powerful men. Gian Navona seeks to marry Melanthe to gain control of her estates. He has sent his bastard son Allegreto to kill any possible suitors who might get in his way, and to protect her from the assassins of the powerful Riata family. In the event of Princess Melanthe's death, the Monteverde estate would revert to their control. Melanthe dare not encourage any suitors who seek her favor; the trail of bodies who have died at the hands of Allegreto are witness enough to the threat.
But Princess Melanthe hopes to out-maneuver them all when she delivers a quit claim to the estate of Monteverde into the hands of King Edward. With the Green Knight as her escort, she seeks refuge from the threats at her Bowland estate. However, Princess Melanthe's plans go awry when she falls in love with Ruck, the Green Knight, and powerful men and dangers threaten to destroy them both.
FOR MY LADY'S HEART is said to be inspired by the Medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Written with many medieval words woven into her work, Ms. Kinsale has included a Glossary of Middle English Words in this Updated Special Edition to aid readers who are challenged by the writing style. I found it a helpful tool.
Ruck and Melanthe are rich and textured characters with many emotional layers. Ruck is a simple and honorable man with a romantic heart. Melanthe's life is filled with lies and deceptions and she seeks to protect Ruck from the cunning threats and evil men who surround her. It's a fascinating story, however I found the pace frustrating. The facts about the true dangers in Melanthe's life become clear slowly over many chapters, and the choices she makes in dealing with her trials are sometimes maddening. The drama is complex with political intrigues and includes several multidimensional secondary characters. Allegreto, the beautiful and dangerous assassin, is the focus of a sequel, SHADOWHEART, due out in April 2004. This edition also includes a short excerpt from SHADOWHEART.
FOR MY LADY'S HEART is an extraordinary romantic tale that has endured in the hearts and minds of readers since it's original publication in 1993. Ruck and Melanthe are the kind of characters that stay with you long after the book is finished.
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