The Mistress of Rosecliffe is the third of Rexanne Becnel's "Rosecliffe" trilogy. Not having read the other two books will put readers at a disadvantage trying to figure out the motivation of the male main character.
Rhys ap Owain is a Welsh knight. He despises the English and wants them out of his country. He also wants revenge against Randulf FitzHugh, the English Lord of Rosecliffe. He devises a plan to seize Rosecliffe and hold Randulf's daughter, Isolde, as hostage.
Isolde angers her Father by refusing to marry a man she thinks is weak. Because of her refusal, she is left at Rosecliffe while the rest of her family travels to London for a visit to the English court. This does not particularly bother Isolde, because she loves being in charge of the castle. She plans to continue the renovating and decorating she enjoys while her family is gone.
She persuades her guards to allow a traveling group of entertainers into the keep to stay and perform. She is particularly taken with Reevius who plays the gittern and promises to teach her to play. He charms her into bed and then when it is too late, she realizes that Reevius is really Rhys, whom she despises. His men quickly take over the castle, send all of the English soldiers away, and send a message to Isolde's father that Isolde is
being held hostage.
So much of the background is alluded to through the story as to why Rhys is so angry, but even after finishing the book, I did not feel the story was complete. Ranulf and his brother, Jasper, are both married to Welsh women. There are references to previously friendly connections between Rhys and both women, but not enough detail. Rhys' father's death is attributed to Jasper, but the circumstances are not detailed. There are even references to connections between Isolde and Rhys including the fact that he held her in his arms when she was a baby and that at one time, he kidnapped her, but no
reason for the kidnapping is given.
I also did not like how cruel Rhys was to Isolde after he beds her, then gloats when she realizes his identity. He continued to berate her for a while and so I found it hard to believe that she could then fall so hopelessly in love with him. When he does finally begin treating her well, the chemistry between the two of them is good, but it came too late in the story to redeem it.
If you have read the first two books, you will probably want to read this one, since it is obvious that Rhys and Isolde have been part of the other stories, but I would be reluctant to choose it on its own.
--B. Kathy Leitle