Love at First Sight

Falling For Her by Sandra Lee
(Bantam, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-553-58011-6
It is the autumn of 1066 and Lady Roscelyn of Cyning has just been married to the odious Cerdic. She agreed to the marriage only because of the benefits the alliance would bring to her family and the people of Cyning. But when she discovers Cerdic attempting to force his attentions on her ten year old sister, Wulfwyn, Roscelyn knows she cannot remain married to such a man.

Poisoning her new husband seems the only solution.

Fate takes care of Roscelynís problem when the men of Cyning are unexpectedly sent to fight the Normans and Cerdic is killed. Unfortunately, Roscelynís father and brothers are also killed in the same battle, leaving Cyning virtually unprotected from the invading Normans.

Roscelynís father, before leaving for battle, left a scroll in her possession. A scroll that proved the Norman Duke William had deceived the Pope when he claimed the Saxon King Harold had sworn allegiance to him. William had received a papal blessing for the invasion of England, but the secret scroll is proof that King Haroldís oath had been given under duress. Once the Pope reads the document, Roscelyn knows he will withdraw the Churchís support and the Saxons will once again rule England.

Roscelynís plan is to deliver the scroll to Saint Dunstan Abbey, where the abbess will see the document reaches the Pope. But her plans change with the arrival of the Norman, Varin de Brionne and his men.

Cyning had been given to Varin by William himself, and Varin is determined the property would remain in Norman hands. His first task is to win over the people of Cyning, and most importantly, the Lady Roscelyn.

But winning Roscelynís favor is not easy. She places the blame for all that has befallen her family directly on Varinís shoulders and now bides her time waiting for the opportunity to travel to the Abbey with the scroll that will set Cyning free from Norman rule.

Author Sandra Lee sets up a formidable conflict between Varin and Roscelyn. Without revealing too much of the plot, Varin has legitimate reasons not to trust Roscelyn and Roscelyn thoroughly detests the Normans. Their conflict often seems insurmountable as each stubbornly focuses on their personal goals.

It is evident from the start that both find the other sexually appealing, but I had difficulty discerning any real love between the two. The author tells the reader of their changing feelings, but there is no solid evidence that their relationship is based on more than lust.

Falling For Her contains a wonderful cast of secondary characters - Roscelynís little sister Wulfwyn, who constantly finds herself in trouble, the cranky village witchwife, Lufu, and my personal favorite, Arnulf, the fearsome and ugly Norman giant with a great love for children. Everyone has their character quirks including Roscelyn ho finds herself faint at the mere discussion of blood.

Falling For Her is nicely paced and I was immediately drawn into the plot. Although the romantic elements didnít quite work for me, the time spent with the quirky inhabitants of Cyning made Falling For Her an enjoyable read.

--Karen Lynch

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