The Bonny Bride

The Carpetbaggerís Wife/A>

The Elusive Bride

A Gentleman of Substance

My Lord Protector

The Wedding Wager

Whitefeather's Woman

Border Bride by Deborah Hale
(Harl. Historical #619., $5.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-29219-8
It is never a good sign when I pick up a book, read a dozen pages, put it down and choose to read another book before I can talk myself into picking up the original book. Border Bride is full of talk and little action. It is a familiar tale of young lovers reunited years later, only to discover that the woman has a son by the man, of which he was unaware. Set in the Norman invasion era, it is unimaginative, slow-paced and with characters that are unappealing.

Enid, widow of Howell, is waiting for a neighboring lord to visit her keep to offer her marriage. She has decided to accept for the protection he will bring to her land, her people and her children. She has only known one love in her life, her childhood friend who left her with a son and disgrace. She married Howell, who raised this son as his own, and provided her with two other delightful children. Now she is seeking security.

Conwy ap Ifan is the man of her childhood. He is a free spirit, and enjoys the adventure of roaming the countryside, of offering his warrior services and has even been on a Crusade. Now he is touring the Welsh home of his past on a mission from the struggling Queen Maud, to get the Norman lords fighting amongst themselves, weakening them for the English.

Con is surprised to discover Enid. When he left her as a young man, he thought she was to marry a rich landowner. He remembers her with fondness, and regrets that he could not have been more to her. (Of course, he doesnít remember their lovemaking, as he was too drunk). He has never regretted his life. In fact, his reward for this mission is knighthood and a chance to lead the army in the Holy Land.

As you might guess, Enid and Con are immediately attracted to one another. Con is his charming self, and Enid canít seem to keep a straight thought in her head when he is around. When Con discovers that one of the lords he is to meet is expected at Glyneira, Enidís home, he coerces an invitation to stay. Enid is less than thrilled because although she wants him, she must keep her sonís identity a secret.

The first 100 pages is this battle of who stays and who goes, as well as a tug of war between the two about their attraction. The next 100 pages involves Enidís ruse to get Con to marry her. She knows if she pressures him into this, he will leave, as he did before. Conís problem is and has always been commitment. Enid has always, even when they were children, taken the blame for him. When this woman, who feels loyalty and steadfastness is a virtue, begins to excuse his behavior the author lost me for good. The final 80 pages involve the threat to peace and the resolution to their troubles.

Enid is portrayed as the lady of the manor, loved by her people, and yet acts simple-minded around Con. Con is a flirt and hovers between devilish rogue and steadfast warrior. Just when you start liking him he reverts to the selfish wanderer who only cares about his ambitions.

The attempts at humor fall flat and the childish flirtations seem out of character for the historical time and events taking place. Enid was set to marry the neighboring lord, whom all the people liked and wanted her to marry. Now this man, in the role of a troubadour, comes around and seduces her before their eyes. No one seems to get upset about this, and a few even support her. This did not work for me at all.

The people in the keep are unremarkable. The most engaging characters are the three children. When was the last time you read an adult romance and you only enjoyed the children in the story?

Finally, I have to throw out a pet peeve. This story is set in Wales. The author uses a few Welsh words or phrases in the middle of sentences, and then has to define what is meant a few paragraphs later. I appreciate an author who researches the setting, but this is annoying and provides little to the tale. It is especially irritating when the words are Welsh; Iím betting the average reader canít even figure out how to pronounce the words.

Border Bride just doesnít hit the mark. Avoid it.

--Shirley Lyons

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