The Dark Duke

The Maiden & Her Knight

The Overlord's Bride

A Rogue's Embrace

A Scoundrel's Kiss

Tempt Me with Kisses

A Warrior's Bride

Hers to Desire
by Margaret Moore
(HQN, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-77124-X
This medieval romance is set on the coast of Cornwall and features a lady whose reputation is ruined because her father was a traitor and a landless knight. I really enjoyed the tale and yet, there were times when I cringed from some trite phrasing and some rather modernized storylines. Hers to Desire is still worth the reading time.

Lady Beatrice (no last name was ever given that I could find) is disgraced because he father was a traitor to the crown. However, she is a cousin to Constance, who has married Lord Merrick. She is staying with them at their primary estate. Also at the estate is one of Lord Merrick’s closest friends, Ranulf of Beauvieux, who is a landless knight but a man well respected by his peers. Ranulf is serving as Merrick’s garrison commander when word reaches them that the castellan of Penterwell, a lesser estate, has died from a fall from his horse. Merrick convinces Ranulf that he needs to go, since Merrick’s wife has just had a baby. Lady Beatrice follows a few days later when they discover that there is no one acting as the housekeeper and the estate is falling to ruin. Constance and Beatrice convince Merrick, who has broken his leg, that Beatrice should be the one to take supplies and help Ranulf get things to rights.

Upon arriving at Penterwell, Ranulf discovers that there are three men missing. One body has been found and it appears the man died while fishing, but it is suspicious. Since many of the villagers are smugglers, trust of a new Lord is slow to come. Ranulf must rely on the sheriff Hedyn and undersheriff Myghal to help him. He is reluctant to let Bea stay because he is attracted to her and feels unworthy, but circumstances like weather keep getting in the way of his ability to send her away. When she starts making a difference in how the household is run, it becomes even harder.

The basic story follows the search for the villains, while Bea tries to convince Ranulf, who she loves and has loved for a while, to let her stay. Her goal is seduction because he doesn’t seem interested in marrying her. More murders occur when the sheriff and his paramour are killed. The reader knows who the villain is and this makes the suspense minimal; we just wait until Ranulf figures it out. Beatrice, of course, gets involved and the ending climaxes with a dramatic rescue.

The tale is full of bravery, loving (although much of it is in the form of foreplay), getting to know each other, and chivalry. The intrigue is there, but mainly in the guise of waiting to see how the hero will save the heroine…or will the heroine save herself? It is fun, yet there are just enough distractions to minimize the full enjoyment of the reader.

Ranulf is a tortured hero. He has raised himself by his bootstraps to be where he is today. He was raised by a vicious father and brothers, who kicked him out after he killed his older brother - the full story is finally divulged late in the tale. He presented himself to a well-known Lord who took him under his wing and gave him the training he needed to be a knight. There is a sense that this is part of a series of stories, featuring Merrick and their other friend Henry. Other than some feeling that there is more history that we don’t know, this tale does stand on its own. Ranulf has feelings of low self-esteem because of his past. He doesn’t think he is good enough for Bea so that is why he tries to steer clear. This sense of inferiority seems overdone at times, given all his accomplishments.

Bea on the other hand, is a feisty maiden who is almost too feisty for the times. Shunned because of her father, she is accepted in Merrick’s household and loved by everyone. Her only vice is that she talks too much. We discover that she talks when she is trying to cover up her insecurity. Ranulf loves her vivaciousness. She loves everything about him, but is hesitant because she can’t read his feelings very well. She does things that seem bold and yet everyone accepts it because she is so vibrant. This just doesn’t ring well for medieval times and the role that women played.

Finally there is phrasing that seemed so awkward. In the midst of a lovemaking scene, when Bea encourages him to continue despite the fact they are not married, and macho Ranulf says, “I shall obey happily, my queen, my empress. My love.” This just sounded so totally unlike the character Ranulf.

Hers to Desire is a decent story; in fact, it is enjoyable most of the time, keeping my interest and keeping me coming back when I had to put it down. You just have to get around some of the circumstances in the plot that are a tad too modern for medieval times.

--Shirley Lyons

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