|The Bride Hunt is a deceptive title for a story filled with adventure and romance. Maguire has written a gem to start off the year.
Lady Isabel Louvet is kidnapped by Scottish rovers when they overtake her family’s keep. Her suitor, Roger de Neuville, was knocked unconscious and taken, along with several others. She is scared and feels alone but is determined to escape and return to her family.
One man was captured trying to save her. Anvrai d’Arques is a landless knight who has fought beside King William for many years. He is missing one eye and bears other scars on his face and body. But he is brave and even though he is kept chained, he is determined to get free and save as many as he can. They are taken deep into Scotland with Isabel to be a prize presented to their chieftain.
Thanks to the courage of both Isabel and Anvrai, they manage to escape with a still disoriented Roger. Thus begins their journey home, which takes them through Scotland, braving wild rivers and dense forests. They save a woman in childbirth and beat off more Scottish brutes. Throughout the adventure, Isabel sees the value in Anvrai, despite his physical imperfections and sees the lack of character in Roger, despite his charm and beauty. The story continues as they try to survive and reach the safety of England, with many more entanglements along the way. There is sexual tension and some hot love scenes too.
Anvrai tries to protect his heart, having watched his mother and sister killed by marauders when he was just eight. He and the King had a slight disagreement over his assignments and thus he was not rewarded with land like many of the other vassals. He knows his scars are frightening to women and has trouble believing Isabel is not rejecting him too. He also realizes he has nothing to offer her, so despite his love and their attraction, he is determined to keep his heart safe.
Isabel is at times like a superhero. Nothing seems to scare her too much, especially when one considers her upbringing at an abbey school. But it is hard not to like her spunk and her unwillingness to let things destroy her psyche. She acts with courage despite her fears; she loves and lives with passion. She is amazed to see the real Roger and is grateful she knows the truth before she is wed to him. Historically, it appears that women were weak creatures in 1072. Yet Isabel represents the characteristics that must have been prevalent for women to survive these trying times.
The story is driven by their adventures, but it is the relationships that keep the reader engaged. Isabel and Anvrai talk and share, sometimes more than they realize. Anvrai shows his value in his actions…ensuring their safety, food and even their health thanks to his knowledge of medicines. Isabel demonstrates her gentle upbringing by her compassion for the mother and child. Yet she is strong, smart, and determined. She does not shy away from anything she needs to do to survive.
For a brief time towards the end, Anvrai lets his doubts and insecurities rule his actions and he holds onto them a tad too long. The ending came quickly and seemed a little rushed, given all they had been through to get to the end. Luckily these did not destroy the tone of the tale.
The Bride Hunt is fast paced, well written and full of adventure and romance. The characters show depth in their thinking and in their actions. Hunt for it at your bookstore.