A Perfect Love by Sandra Landry
(Jove, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-12885-6
****
Some of the summer's best romances are coming from the fantasy/paranormal genre and the roll does not stop with A Perfect Love. Sandra Landry's debut novel has it all...time traveling, reincarnation, nasty villains, action-packed plot, hunky hero, lovable heroine, warm and snugly romantic love (with neither too much nor too little reticence from the protagonists before admitting to it), and one of the most unique story lines this jaded aficionado of fantasy romance has come across in a while. Indeed, the story line contains so many different elements that it's difficult to decide what should and shouldn't go into a plot description. Bearing that in mind, here are the bare facts:

England, Late 1100s: A witch foretells to Lord Faulk Brookstone that there is only one woman in existence capable of giving him heirs. She is golden of hair, golden of eyes, and sports the marking of the rose. The witch gives him a final warning: "As she comes through the water, so can the water take her away." Faulk shrugs the old woman off and continues on his way, putting her declaration from his mind.

Flash forward six years: Recently back from battle, Faulk is riding along the beach when he happens upon the unconscious body of a golden haired woman that is barely clinging to life. He picks up the mystery lady and carries her inside of his keep where his nursemaid Mildred attends to her. Mildred is the only other person Faulk ever confided in about the witch's prophesy, so when she finds an intricate drawing of a rose on the shoulder of the unconscious woman while undressing her, she immediately rushes to Faulk with the news. Faulk is momentarily stunned, but quickly recovers with a new and fierce determination. This mystery woman will heal and she will marry him, whether she wants to or not...

England, Present Day: After returning from a visit with her family in France, Nadine du Monte arrives at her flat in England only to be given some horrific news: her parents have been killed in a car crash. She makes immediate plans to head back to France, but since it is late in the evening the only available mode of transportation is the ferry. Grief-stricken, Nadine books passage and sets sail across the English Channel. At some point during the trip, she is overcome with a dizzy spell that knocks her off balance and sends her plunging into the cold waters of the channel.

Nadine awakens three days later, only to find herself in a strange room, on a strange bed, surrounded by a bunch of strange people that dress oddly. Needless to say, she has a lot of questions running through her mind, but the most prominent ones revolve around the handsome man named Faulk and his bizarre (not to mention frightening) announcement that she is not permitted to leave his home. And even stranger yet, she is suddenly having flash memories of another woman's life, as if that life had once been her own...

There is so much going on in A Perfect Love that it's almost impossible for a time travel/paranormal buff to grow bored. There are plots and subplots, themes and sub-themes, twists and turns, and yet Sandra Landry manages to deliver them all without convoluting the story line in the slightest.

Another strength of this novel aside from the intriguing and unique story line is the well-crafted and realistic twelfth century setting. What makes Landry's medieval backdrop a model more historical and paranormal authors should strive to emulate is the fact that she's able to transport readers to medieval England without writing a dissertation about how it must have looked. There are no boring descriptions of what a room looks like that take up a solid half page in small font (inducing major paragraph scanning); instead Landry weaves the details quite expertly throughout the book with an excellent mix of narrative and dialogue.

The characters are also nicely penned. Whether protagonist, antagonist, or secondary, the reader has a real sense of who the actors are as people, what motivates them, and why. One would think that would be a given in any literary endeavor, but for those of us that have been reading awhile we quickly learn that's not necessarily the case.

The best aspect of this novel overall is that A Perfect Love is a perfect romance. Rather than pitting the protagonists against each other in an exasperatingly overdone war of the wills, Sandra Landry uses the fast paced plot to keep you on your toes. Thus, the romantic love is woven throughout the story, reaching a wonderful culmination at the novel's end. It's always nice to be able to close a book with a smile on your face.

--Tina Engler

It's not often we have a chance to post two opinions on the same book, but in the case of A Perfect Love, two of our reviewers ended up with a copy, so we have more than one viewpoint to offer you.

Sandra Landry's A Perfect Love is a time travel tale with a different twist. The heroine not only travels back in time, she is also reincarnated.

Faulk Brookstone disappoints his father again by choosing to join the Crusades instead of remarrying after the death of his wife. Faulk had loved and married Elizabeth against his father's wishes. Only after the wedding did he discover that she was carrying another man's child. After her death and betrayal, he feels that he must prove himself in the Crusades. Just before he leaves, a witch tells him of her vision that the only woman who can give him healthy sons will be a golden vision who arrives by water and has hair bright as the sun and bears the mark of the rose. She then warns him that as the water will bring her, so can the water take her away if he does not open his heart to this woman's love. He scoffs at that, but six years later, after returning from his quest, he finds such a woman washed ashore near his land.

Nadine du Monte is a modern day woman about to leave her home in Rouen, France and travel to London to study. She has two parents who love her and who are very much in love with each other. She hopes to find a perfect love just like theirs, but her only serious relationship was with a man who was married and did not tell her. Her parents take her to the airport and she arrives in London. When she reaches her flat, her landlady informs her that her parents were killed in an accident traveling back from taking her to the airport. Despite Nadine's fear of water, she rushes to catch the ferry over to France, the only transportation available quickly. In her grief, she stands at the railing watching the water when dizziness overcomes her and she slips into the English Channel.

Nadine awakens in the 12th century. She thinks that she has stumbled into a large, authentic reenactment group. Faulk isn't quite sure what she is talking about at times, but she fulfills the prophesy with her golden hair and the rose tattoo on her shoulder. She also arrived by water. He is determined to marry her. After getting nowhere trying to find a phone, she insists she is going to London. Faulk and his men escort her. It isn't until she actually sees London that she realizes she has somehow gone back in time. She disguises her dismay by claiming to have lost most of her memory.

She also begins to experience dizzy spells that result in visions of herself, but in them, she is living in the 12th century. Unbeknownst to any of them, Roland du Monte sees Nadine in a London market. Since he had had her kidnapped by two cohorts who then let her accidentally drown, he is surprised to see her. He learns that she has no memory before her accident, so he can now try to trick her into marrying him, a distant bastard relative, and control her vast estate.

I particularly liked that Nadine does not try to convince anyone that she is from another time. After she knows that she has somehow traveled back in time, she realizes that she could be burned as a witch or considered mad if she tries to talk about her old life. Instead, she worries whether or not she will suddenly go back. This is particularly distressing for her as she begins to fall in love with Faulk. The thought of leaving him scares her because she sees more and more as time passes that he could be her perfect love.

Faulk tries hard not to fall in love with her because he vowed not to ever fall in love again after his first wife's betrayal. I did think he held out acknowledging his love a little too long, but that is the only thing I didn't like about him. He is a medieval man with his insistence on honor and loyalty, but he also shows some flexibility by trying to gently persuade Nadine to marry him. When Roland does his best to undermine Faulk is a number of devious ways, Faulk continues to be the strong, honorable knight.

Roland and Judith, a widow who wants Faulk for herself, are both convincing villains. Roland does most of his evil through physical force, but Judith uses her sharp tongue to wound and spread doubt in both Faulk and Nadine's minds. I found the punishment Judith receives for her misdeeds particularly satisfying.

There is so much more to this story. The reawakening of Nadine's memories from the 12th century, the discovery of her family, the side story of how she helps another couple with their marriage, and Faulk's interactions with King Richard all add up to a satisfying and very different time travel tale. Don't miss this one!

--B. Kathy Leitle


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