Kinley MacGregor's newest medieval, Master of Desire, is the rousing tale of an honorable, but deeply troubled knight and a sheltered woman eager to break out of the overprotective security of her father's house. Humor and sorrow are well mixed as these two strong people struggle to move the obstacles in their path.
Draven de Montague, Earl of Ravenswood, is in a dispute with his nearest neighbor, Lord Hugh. Ravenswood's colors were used in attacks on villages beholden to Lord Hugh, and men wearing Lord Hugh’s colors attacked some of Ravenswood’s villages. Each man claims themselves innocent of the attacks, so the dispute goes to King Henry II. Henry decides to play Solomon. Since Draven values his honor above all and Hugh values his daughters above all, the King requires Draven to house and protect one of Hugh's daughters for a year. If Hugh attacks a Ravenswood property, Draven can do whatever he wants with the daughter. If Draven goes against his honor and harms or shames the daughter, he will pay with his life.
Hugh is truly distraught with the King's solution. Ever since he lost his wife and two of his daughters in childbirth, he has done his best to protect his remaining three daughters from that fate by refusing to allow them any freedom. He also does not trust Draven because the man is known as a ruthless warrior who killed his own father when they were on opposite sides of a battle. Hugh has no choice in the matter since he is somewhat out of favor with the King and could lose his land if he refuses.
Lady Emily is surprised by the King's pronouncement, but more excited that dismayed. Before this turn of events, it had looked like her father would never allow her to meet, marry, and leave his protective sight. She is not afraid of Draven and sees that behind the hard exterior lurks a kind and fair man. She decides that he is the man she wants to marry.
Draven is so afraid that he will turn out to be like his father, that he has vowed not to marry and have children. He has managed to basically avoid women, but Emily with her kindness and caring and her lack of fear around him begins to chip away at his resolve. Her pursuit of him and his reluctant retreat, with lots of sexual tension thrown into the mix, leads to an explosive episode involving a dinner table that I won't soon forget.
Draven, Emily, and a number of the secondary characters are well developed. We get to know a lot about Draven's half-brother Simon and Emily's maid Alys and sister Joanne. Emily's father is shown as a father who loves his daughters and will go to great lengths to protect them and who
learns to admit he is wrong in the end. King Henry II shows both his royal side and his everyday side, particularly in the scenes with Draven and Emily. The villain is less developed and was obvious early in the book, but that did not detract from the story.
As mentioned earlier, there is a fine blend of humor and sorrow. For example, do you know what the medieval equivalent of the modern light bulb joke is? The fire joke. "How many Romans does it take to start a fire?" I'm not sure how medieval the jokes are, but they are enjoyable. Also, instead of boys peeping at girls bathing in a stream, Emily and Alys sneak up to see Draven as he bathes.
Master of Desire quickly pulled me into the story and kept my attention throughout. Although I'm not sure that some of the episodes are actually true to the time period, I was able to overlook those and just enjoy watching Emily help heal her brave, faithful, wounded knight.
--B. Kathy Leitle