Before I begin (before you begin to read this) I want to say that while I've read and reread this book (upwards of three times, at a conservative guesBefore I begin (before you begin to read this) I want to say that while I've read and reread this book (upwards of three times, at a conservative guess) I have not done so within the past year or two, so some aspects are a bit fuzzy in my mind.
I liked the book in general, though it is definitely not 'high literature' - nothing of the sort. It was one of the first 'pure romance' novels I read, and I seem to recall picking it up at the book sale at my library mainly because the dark knight depicted and described on the cover was intriguing.
Doing my best to outline what I thought of the book without spoilers, we'll see how it goes. . .
The history is at best dubious, but I honestly am not terribly surprised by that - firstly, that a fiction writer is definitely granted license to change real history around for her purposes (though, on that note, I must point out that I adore fictional works that use real history to great advantage, even when mixing in their fictional characters). Secondly, I wouldn't expect real history - or a realistic depiction of it - from a book like this, which is fairly easily categorised as 'non-thinky romance' really.
The romance portion of the novel seemed to stagnate a bit past the original set up of . . . well, loathing, really, at the very least on Aislinn's part. She seemed to backslide into this mindset even past the point when at least some thawing would have made more sense than her cold hate, even considering their relative positions.
I thought that the use of another knight for the initial set up of Aislinn's new 'station' was a rarely-used approach (though I honestly do not read much in this particular sphere of historical fiction, preferring more realism, generally), and made the following developments more believable, at least to me.
The following paragraphs I simply could not get around without spoilers. No dissection of the plot, but there are major story points mentioned casually below.
(view spoiler)[Now, I really, really despise the use of rape as a literary device, not least because it is typically used so very poorly (i.e. 'I love you so much I couldn't resist' or 'you made me do it because you wouldn't consent', usually followed by forgiveness and love. Just . . . no.) but while this was certainly not a healthy - or even enjoyable - depiction of rape, it was, at least, not so horrible that it incited me to violence, and it is unfortunately picking off of real historical behaviour.
Though Aislinn's change of heart, even as much as she backslides and protests - and as ridiculously moody as she is, swinging pendulum-like from fury and revulsion to sweetness and affection, is unrealistic for any woman nearly as independent as we are supposed to believe she is.
Honestly, I tend to kind of phase out of romance novels that include pregnancy as a point in the story, possibly because the endless descriptions and such from the mother-to-be's point of view do not come across very well through the text, possibly because I am not generally taken with the phenomenon in general, admittedly.
I didn't do so with this book, mostly because so much was unresolved in the interim that it would have bothered me to leave it unread, and I can rarely bring myself skim through any book.
The seeming lack of many other women in the narrative and location - save, of course, for Aislinn's mother and Wulfgar's sister, tended to bother me, though it did make me think as I read that it was one explanation for why every man for ten leagues was so fascinated with Aislinn! (hide spoiler)]
Wulfgar was honestly likely my favourite character, once I had adjusted to view him - as I usually must when reading historical fiction, even (sometimes especially) the stuff that is handled with true adherence to reality - through the lens of 'this is many years ago, and standard/acceptable behaviour was very different then'.
I though that there could have been more exploration of Wulfgar's character, history, motivations, and even his own emotions and thoughts as the book progressed - it might have made a nice change from Aislinn's occasionally moodily bipolar (no reference to the disorder, and no offense meant, I simply cannot think of a better way to describe her incredibly extreme mood swings) behaviour.
Perhaps even his look on her behaviour would have been interesting, though I am aware that Woodiwiss seems to like having us as surprised as her heroine with the progression of events.
Now, the ending . . . it seemed rushed to me, I couldn't help but think. It is true that it handled what it needed to, and resolved most/all of the issues up in the air at the time. I did think that it all happened just a bit too quickly, however, especially contrasted with the almost lazy 'nothing is happening' space that almost immediately preceded it.
The happy ending, though negotiable in how 'happy' or 'perfect' it may be, is of course a forgone conclusion with any book in this sphere - that would be why this is not under a spoiler tag, as well. This one was handled with its nods to history, and it was believable, to the extent that the rest of the book was. There were definitely some bits of vindictive satisfaction to it, as well, though I will leave the specifics to you to discover. . .
In short, if you enjoy historical romantic fiction, and don't mind a not-very-strict adherence to real history, nor the perennial oddities and vagaries so rampant in the 'romance' genre, this is not a bad book to pick up for casual entertainment, though it is not the best example of either.
I enjoyed the book, and think that many people could - as long as you meet it on its own terms and don't expect too much from it....more