February 2008, Medieval Romance (1060s Brittany and England)
Harl Historical #229, $5.99, 297 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373305389
This book is not available in print from Amazon, but they do sell the Kindle version of it...for $3.96.
I have had good results with Harlequin's mail-order historicals (they release two per month, in addition to the four historicals available in stores), so I was happy to give Carol Townend's latest novel a try, in spite of my determination to steer clear of books with "Rogue" and other such overused words in their titles. Though it has its weak spots, An Honorable Rogue features likable characters and a touching story in which most of the action takes place outside of England - a big plus in a market glutted with English settings.
Widow Rozenn Kerber learned of her husband's debts only after his death. A tailor, Per Kerber left behind a generous stock of fabrics in his shop which Rozenn now tries to sell in order to make good on the debts. She leads a very circumscribed life in the village of Quimperle, and yearns for a chance to make her way in the world, as her brother did when he fought for William of Normandy and received lands of his own. This opportunity arrives one day, in the form of a messenger who brings news from her brother that he wishes her to join him in England, and that a knight has asked for her hand in marriage.
Not long after receiving this news, Rozenn's childhood friend, Benedict Silvester, returns to town. Benedict makes his living as a traveling minstrel and to Rozenn's dismay, has built up quite a reputation for his prowess with women. Though Rozenn cannot help being charmed by Benedict, she also cannot fully respect him due to the life she sees him leading.
Rozenn feels a certain attraction for Benedict, just as she did when they were young together, however, she does not want to give up a long dreamed-of chance for security in order to pursue him. Interactions between the two are poignant and almost painfully awkward at times. Though each feels drawn to the other, Rozenn is determined to keep her thoughts focused on being a knight's lady, and Benedict forces himself to hold back from Rozenn.
Though Benedict knows more about Rozenn's planned trip to England than he will let on, her ambition to remarry well and live a secure life seems to stand between them. While Benedict is more than the carefree minstrel he appears, he hides parts of his life from Rozenn, even as he ends up escorting her on her journey.
Benedict and Rozenn's story is well told for the most part, and I found myself drawn to a quality in it that I have found lacking in many romances I've read recently. While there are some authors who create amazing passion and chemistry between their leads, this story had another dimension. There is a certain chemistry between the leads, but there is also a more tender level to the romance and, while there are still some sexy scenes, the story had a slightly old-fashioned feel as a result.
However, even with a poignant romance, this novel had a few flaws that keep me from giving it unqualified recommendation. First of all, there is the suspense plot that actually weaves in and out of the story fairly well at first, but the resolution - such as it is - fails to satisfy. In addition, the pace of the story sped up toward the end and I felt as if too many things got resolved too easily. Even with those issues, An Honorable Rogue is still an enjoyable book and I will probably go back to read the first in this series.
-- Lynn Spencer
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