Sir Rafe Godsol is attending the wedding of a friend. This is a particularly festive occasion since church weddings are once again permitted in 1214 after the pope raised the interdict which prohibited the clergy in England from administering the church sacraments. Besides the wedding ceremony and banquet, several days of festivities are planned for the distinguished guests. Rafe envies the groom his lovely young virginal bride. As the youngest of three sons, he is landless, and the best he can hope for is marriage with a landed older widow.
He casts his eye around with a mind to a little romantic dalliance during the days of wedding celebrations. One beautiful young woman catches his attention. He learns from his older brother that she is the daughter of their family’s greatest enemy, Lord Humphrey Daubney of Bagot. Moreover, her dower property Glevering was stolen by Daubney from the Godsols. Rather than being dismayed by this information, Rafe is more determined to have her. He arranges a plan whereby he may abduct the heiress gaining both her and her property.
Lady Katherine de Fraisney is the beautiful young widow. She was raised from a young age by her husband’s family, particularly by her future mother-in-law, Lady Adele. Kate’s husband was younger than she and sickly so she has little experience with married love. Her mother-in-law instilled Kate with a deep conviction in the courtly love tradition. Now that she is again living with her father, she fancies herself in love with his handsome steward, Sir Warin de Dapifer. Her father has always treated her harshly and is determined to wed her to another with all possible haste regardless of her feelings. He is using the wedding as an opportunity to hawk her assets to any potential groom.
When Kate first encounters Rafe, she finds herself greatly attracted to the handsome knight. They share a passionate kiss in a hidden alcove, a kiss that is beyond anything in Kate’s experience. She is horrified to learn of the hostility between their two families because she knows that it means she will never be in his company again.
Rafe discovers there is much more to appreciate in the lovely Kate than merely her property. He starts to seek her out for her own sake and becomes fiercely jealous when he realizes that Sir Warin has captured her interest. At the same time Kate begins to suspect that she loves Rafe and not Warin. Rafe’s interest in Kate and Bagot’s subsequent rage over it lead to partisan rivalry in the joust. This will culminate when Sir Warin - with Bagot’s assistance -dishonorably tries to kill Rafe in the final match for the championship. Succeeding events will jeopardize Kate’s and Rafe’s love and their very lives.
There is much to like in this medieval-era romance. It works well on all levels: the plot is interesting, the historical background is well researched, and the characters are well-developed and multidimensional. I was particularly pleased that the plan to abduct Kate raised in the first chapter took an unexpected course. Rather than adhering to the familiar plot device of abducting an unwilling and hostile heiress merely for her property, Rafe falls quickly and obviously in love with Kate, and her property becomes of less importance to him than her.
Kate’s gradual realization that the courtly love tradition is a fiction and that there can be real, physical love between a man and a woman is well done. She is a very sympathetic and appealing character. During the course of the story, it is convincing as she matures and becomes more decisive. Although it seems unlikely that a twenty-one-year-old woman could be so innocent and ignorant, her attitudes are justified by her limited experience and her strong reliance on Lady Adele’s teachings.
Readers who deplore romances set in the medieval period that are false to the times will appreciate The Warrior’s Damsel (a silly, non-descriptive title). The practices, traditions, and attitudes of the era are realistically presented. Furthermore, the political climate of the time is well-woven into the plot.
Rafe is one of several knights who are good friends. At the end of the epilogue, the sudden arrival of a messenger promises a sequel. Denise Hampton is a new pseudonym for author Denise Domning. The Warrior’s Damsel is a worthy addition to this author’s list of romances. I look forward to reading the next medieval by this talented author.