Jo Beverley, Margaret Moore and Deborah Simmons
1999, Medieval Romance
Harlequin Historical, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373834179
I love Christmas anthologies. When done well, each story gives me a little bit of Christmas cheer, a little love and laughter, the warm fuzzies, if you will. There's nothing sweeter than falling in love at Christmas, even if it's only vicariously.
Medieval Romance (Late 1200s England) The most representative of the spirit of the season involves a stalwart lord, a feisty lady, a traditional Christmas pageant, and a tattered banner. Jo Beverley's The Wise Virgin, begins as Lady Joan is being kidnapped by her family's worst enemy, The Golden Lion, Lord Edmund de Graves. Unfortunately, it wasn't Joan he was after, but her cousin. When he discovers his error, he has already started to fall for the beautiful, argumentative maiden.
In order to concentrate on resolving the feud between Joan and Edmund's families, the author has placed the love scene very early in the story. Joan and Edmund spend a night of passion together, knowing they will be separated as soon as it's discovered she's been kidnapped and her uncle's men arrive to rescue her. Thereafter, the central focus of the story revolves around a banner carried into the Crusades by one family, but which now resides in the possession of the other. The banner is thought to be blessed and beneficent, and Joan's uncle wants it back. He's willing to do anything to get it, while Edmund is willing to do anything to maintain it in his hands.
The resolution is in keeping with the spirit and true meaning of Christmas - a resolution brought about for the most part by Joan's pure heart and genuine concern that the right thing be done for the happiness of both families. That she gets a handsome lord to fall in love with her, is the best reward possible for her efforts.
Medieval Romance (Late 1200s England) The Vagabond Knight by Margaret Moore has a weary mercenary knight and a cheerless widow snowbound together, giving them each time to learn to look past the veneer to the heart of the other.
Sir Rafe Bracton has fought in tournaments and traveled the world. Penniless, he just doesn't know what to do with his life anymore. When he meets the lovely Lady Katherine DuMonde, he sets his sights on a night or two in her bed, but doesn't count on her courage and independence getting to him, touching him in ways no woman has before.
While a good story, this was not quite as strong as the other two, which I attribute to the short story format. These characters needed more development to make their love story believable, but even so, it was an enjoyable read. Grade: B-
Medieval Romance (Late 1200s England) An Unexpected Guest by Deborah Simmons is the sweet and tender story of a man who thinks he's too old for love, and a fiercely independent woman who doesn't think she needs it at all. Happily for the reader, both are wrong.
Stranded during a snowstorm at Campion's castle gates, Lady Joy Warwick finds herself taken in and cared for by Fawke de Burgh, the earl of Campion. Though the older Campion is attracted to the youthful widow, he keeps his desires under tight control until he discovers the lady's reasons for her independent nature, then sets about to claim her for his own. For her part, the lady wants a night or two of love with the handsome earl, but nothing more - nothing permanent. She was unhappily wed once, and relishes the freedom her widowhood has brought her. But can she spend the night in Campion's arms and still find the heart to leave him?
An Unexpected Guest carries on the saga of the seven de Burgh brothers by shining the light of Christmas love on their wonderful father, Fawke. Fans of the series will enjoy this latest installment, which gives a worthy hero a lady of his own. While the focus is on the inner conflict both Fawke and Joy must face when fighting their attraction, further turmoil is thrown in by Campion's beautiful, arrogant son, Stephen, who is not used to women preferring another man to him, especially not his own father.
Deborah Simmons is a talented writer whose stories I always look forward to reading - and this one is no exception. An Unexpected Guest is at its heart, the simple story of two nice people falling in love at Christmastime. Mmmmm. What could be more romantic? Grade: B
If you're looking for a little Christmas cheer, you won't go wrong by making yourself a present of The Brides of Christmas.
-- Marianne Stillings
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