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Lord of Lyonsbridge by Ana Seymour
(Har. Hist. #472, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-29172-1
****
Lord of Lyonsbridge follows a classic storyline. Lady Ellen Wakelin, only child of a Norman nobleman, journeys to the Saxon stronghold Lyonsbridge Castle with her cousin Sebastien in order to bring proper management to a place that has been somewhat neglected under Norman rule. The castellan, one Sir William, is more interested in leering after young girls than in keeping the place clean. Ellen can handle Sir William and her smarmy cousin. But she doesn't know what to do about the castle's horsemaster.

Connor Brand is the son of the old Lord of Lyonsbridge. Had the Normans not invaded, he would have been the heir. But his family is gone, save for a brother who is a priest, and Connor has stayed near the castle to protect the villagers and care for the magnificent horses that were Lyonsbridge's pride and joy. He certainly doesn't expect an independent Norman maiden to appear on horseback and champion the local folk. And a beautiful maiden at that.

Ellen finds herself drawn to Connor. Their shared love of horses makes them natural allies; his educated speech and un-servantlike manner are puzzling. Connor does not reveal his heritage, preferring that Ellen know him only as a stable master. Then their attraction can go no further than a few kisses and nobody will be hurt. But when Sir William goes too far with a young village girl and ends up with a knife in his chest, Connor makes a desperate move to insure the safety of the villagers, one that will bring him together with Ellen in a struggle for justice.

I enjoyed both Connor and Ellen. She's feisty without being a brat; he's strong without being arrogant or overbearing. They're a good team. The secondary characters add spark to the plot without taking over, and nothing feels contrived. Here's a story that moves right along. The book is focused on the relationship between Connor and Ellen; we don't see her performing many duties around the castle, but the author manages to make her seem capable nonetheless.

Parts of the book felt a bit modern in tone. I doubt that they used the phrase "crazy as a coot" in 1066; might have, but it sounded out place, as did the use of "Give it up." Those and a few other instances sounded a jarring note. But those are small irritants in an otherwise very enjoyable read.

Lord of Lyonsbridge is a light, engaging medieval, just right for a balmy summer evening.

--Cathy Sova


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