|Hers to Command, Margaret Moore’s latest medieval romance, is part of a series that I haven’t had the chance to read. I was certain that I would enjoy this one though, if only for Moore’s excellent writing. I wasn’t disappointed. Like many of her earlier novels, Hers to Command is a pleasurable read.
Mathilde and her beautiful sister Gisele accost the hero in his room at a roadside tavern, forced into scandalous action by the threat of their cousin, Roald. The sisters have inherited an estate and desperately want to protect it, and themselves, from their malicious cousin’s efforts to control the property. They know that should the king deny their deceased father’s will at Roald’s request, Roald will marry Gisele by force and make the sisters’ lives and the lives of their dependents a living hell. Although they have never met the hero before, they require a knight, any knight, to assist them in defending their home.
The hero, Sir Henry, agrees to help Mathilde and Gisele in part because he is currently at loose ends, but also because he hates Roald and is willing to participate in anything that thwarts him. An extremely handsome man, and once a court favorite, Sir Henry is directionless and recovering from recent ugly suspicions that caused him to be beaten and imprisoned by a powerful nobleman that had once been Sir Henry’s friend. The quest to aid the two hapless ladies will also help him to regain his honor and self-respect.
When Sir Henry travels to Ecclesford, the sisters’ property, to take over command of their garrison and oversee their preparations for defense, he is at first enamored of the beautiful Gisele. But as he comes to know Mathilde, he begins to see past her plainness to admire the strong, resourceful but wounded person she is. Mathilde has devastating secrets from her past, too, and Sir Henry finds inspiration in her pride and ability to cope.
Roald’s appeal to the king and queen of England is successful and he rides to Ecclesford fully expecting Mathilde and Gisele to hand their property and themselves over to him. Finding Henry in residence, Roald is furious at being routed and leaves, only to return with a band of mercenary soldiers intent on forcing their way into the keep.
A large part of the appeal of this book is the straightforward and skillful writing. The pace is fast, the dialogue is well written, and although a lot happens it is all very neatly tied together. A secondary romance between Gisele and a commoner fits very well with the rest of the story.
Since this book is part of a set, and events in the past were mentioned several times, it does pretty well as a stand-alone. I was disappointed, though, that the events that led to Henry’s former imprisonment were not better explained. The reader is made aware of Henry’s past, but of what he was accused and how he was vindicated is left out. Since these things directly affect Henry’s character, and are part of his motivation in this book, the lack of information leaves the reader with questions.
The love scenes are warmer than previous books by Moore, with much more description. There is also a good bit of violence, especially during the ending battle scenes. It is never gross, or gratuitous, but fans of Moore’s more gentle books should be aware that this one is somewhat different.
There is an aspect of the book to which I object that occurs in the end and is further explained in the epilogue. Suffice it to say that the hero and heroine deserved better than they received and I was disappointed for them. Also objectionable is the scene where Mathilde puts herself in horrific danger. Such behavior from a heroine that had previously been respectably intelligent was jarring.
Fans of historical romance that tire of the Regency-rut that currently prevails will be grateful for this well-written medieval. Small disappointments aside, Hers to Command is an engaging, entertaining read.