From This Moment On blends medieval history, humor, and a unique kind of romance. This spin-off tale revisits wonderful characters, Christopher and Gillian, from Lynn Kurland’s 1997 book, This Is All I Ask. The new story is a success on some levels, but has a few drawbacks that are difficult to overlook. Not least among these may be the hero, Colin of Berkhamshire, who was great comic relief in the previous book, and has been thrust into the spotlight here. Some readers may find his promotion to be a bad management decision.
Alienore of Solonge has been forced to take desperate measures in an attempt to escape her fate. Two years ago her father and fiendish stepmother planned a marriage to the notorious Colin of Berkhamshire. She made good her escape by pilfering her brother’s armor, sword and horse. The kindly Lady Isabeau of Maignelay-sur-mer happened upon Ali, still in disguise and wandering the area, and took the unfortunate girl home with her. Posing as ‘Henri’, Ali serves this household as keeper of the daughter of the house, Lady Sybil. This light duty means she spends her time in Sybil’s chambers, along with the girl’s maids.
Deemed ‘The Butcher of Berkhamshire’, Colin is a knight without equal in size and skill as a swordsman. In fact, he cares for little else besides training for battle. While this notoriety serves him well on the fighting front, it has been the bane of his life, romantically speaking. Colin has a remarkably adverse effect on the fairer sex. His string of intended brides have shown some creativity in avoiding an alliance with him, including feigned insanity, but the most wounding slight was dealt by the lady Alienore, who took flight from her family and is presumed by most to be dead.
As fate intervenes, Sybil has now been betrothed. His identity is withheld, though, and she knows only that she travels to England to meet him. Ali, disguised as Henri, accompanies her. Soon the girls piece together enough information to conclude that they are en route to Blackmour where Christopher and Gillian reside. They puzzle out that Sybil’s intended can be none other than the Blackmours’ great friend, Colin of Berkhamshire.
Their worst suspicions realized, Ali and Sybil soon find themselves at Blackmour in order to make the acquaintance of the ‘Butcher’ himself. Ali is forced to continue her ruse in the worst of circumstances, as her situation places her in the midst of the men of the keep. Colin decides to improve Henri’s overall knightliness by training her himself. Delicate and very pretty, Ali is constantly in danger of revealing not only what she is, but who she is.
It’s a little hard to believe that while some people realize very quickly that ‘Henri’ is a girl, others remain hoodwinked, even after spending a lot of time with her every day. While this situation provides humor to the story, it is stretched too thin by the end. Her near-constant state of fear and distress grew tedious.
As for Colin, he cares only about training, eating and sleeping, in that order. He has little time for silly matters like ladies or personal hygiene. References to his bad odor are recurring, and he is fond of snorting and other manly pursuits. He’s not without his softer side, though. Most endearing is his frustration with his intended brides, since he was not remotely capable of relating to them. When Sybil consistently faints in his presence, his contempt is understandable. Maybe if he hadn’t put me in mind of any number of teenage boys I know, I could have appreciated him more.
Still, this setting seemed authentic and the characters from the previous book were artfully woven into this story to enhance the plot, not detract from it. The constant threat from the evil characters involved was wearing, though. This relationship admittedly works and once the gig was up and Colin and Ali really started to relate to each other as man and woman, I enjoyed the book more. I regret that it did not happen sooner and that so much time is spent getting to that point in the story.
Lynn Kurland spins a medieval yarn very well, something that others have tried and not achieved.
From This Moment On had me considering the plight of women who lived then and the limited options available to them. These characters may have been more suited to the sidelines, but their uniqueness cannot be overlooked. I look forward to more from Ms. Kurland.