Addie & the Laird

Mattie & the Blacksmith

Promise the Moon by Linda Lea Castle
(Zebra Ballad, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-7266-X
Promise the Moon is a familiar tale of an heiress held captive until she is old enough to wed, and a bastard knight who saves, weds, beds and falls in love with her, while keeping secrets that will destroy their love when discovered. The well-written twists to the intrigue save this from the less-than-satisfactory pile.

As a young child, Rowanne Vaudry witnessed her mother’s rape and suicide. Told that her brothers are dead and father refuses to rescue her, Rowanne is raised in a tower with only an older woman as company. She is innocent, naïve and now, notified of her father’s death, traveling to her home to be forced to wed her captor’s son.

Thomas De’Lucy is the scoundrel who has been holding Rowanne, waiting for her to come of age so he can wed her to his son, Geoffri, who has been biding his time at her holdings. De’Lucy also has a bastard son, who he refused to acknowledge. This bastard son, Brandt Le Revenant, is now a knight recently returned from the Crusades. The King has gifted him with Irthing, the Vaudry family manse, as it is assumed all heirs are dead.

Their paths cross when thieves set upon Rowanne and her escort and Brandt rides to the rescue. Upon learning her name, he assumes her to be an imposter. It is only as they travel together that he discovers she is who she says. Not willing to play his hand, Brandt agrees to accompany her and her lone escort as her protector. It is on this journey that their attraction grows and love blossoms.

The intrigue revolves around De’Lucy’s attack on her family and the results of the attack. Are her brothers dead? Ah, you will have to read this book to discover that. The deceit is in the form of Brandt’s secrets from Rowanne. Knowing how she hates De’Lucy, he is loath to reveal his sire’s name. Even after they marry, he keeps the secret, until this lack of truth threatens to destroy their love.

Brandt and Rowanne together are fun, engaging and their trip into love is a pleasant journey. However, apart, their characters leave something to be desired. Rowanne is almost too naïve in some ways and yet is wise beyond her experiences in others. When confronted with the beauty of the countryside, Rowanne is fresh and enticing in her delight in small pleasures. Yet this same childlike woman acts as no innocent miss when seduced for the first time. This transformation between knowing young woman and captivated adolescent is unsettling.

Brandt is the ultimate hero when with Rowanne…strong, protective, sensuous and lighthearted. Yet he sinks into jealousy with little awareness of his actions, is curt and accusing of his best friend and spends much too much time worrying about his aroused state to be truly appealing.

The scenes of violence are very graphic. Most of this occurs in the first two chapters, but is intense enough to turn some off. The most troubling aspect of the book is the constant reference made to the male anatomy in its aroused state by the phrase “tarse and stones”. This occurs continually and in a variety of ways, almost to the point of absurdity.

The last third of the book was the most attention-grabbing. It is here that the story varies from the many stories of its kind. Using a few twists and turns, the author was able to perk my interest with action that generated a sense of excitement. I certainly kept turning those pages, hoping for something creative. Unfortunately, it was only to find the story sinking into predictable resolutions that I had guessed early on in the book.

Promise the Moon will seem like something you’ve read before, but is worth a look for some fine romance and short-lived intrigue.

--Shirley Lyons

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