Seeking temporary shelter in Jaufre's abandoned castle, Winterbourne, she is unprepared for the fierce, angry warrior who returns to confront her. He is a man as rough and unforgiving as the Welsh borderlands he rules -- and she is as gentle and innocent as a new day. But neither Jaufre's dark heart nor Melyssan's innocent one can resist the love that is their destiny -- nor protect them from the danger drawing ever closer...
Being a lover of medieval settings and always on the lookout for new stories to read I had already see this title mentioned here and there before I got the chance to pick it up.
Set in the time of Richard the Lionheart and King John (I seem to be reading and watching a lot of things set in this period lately) it is the story of Melyssan, a maiden with a club foot, and Jaufre a knight loyal to King John. The beginning is a bit unbelievable but, if you get past that, it is an enjoyable story. When the story opens Melyssan is living in Jaufre's castle Winterbourne, after having told the king that she is his wife to defend herself from his amorous advances. In a time where marriages were a political affair that needed the king's seal of approval I found it odd that the king would accept her word for it and that not one of Jaufre's servants found it odd that a wife suddenly appears in the doorstep and not only proceeds to live there but manages to evict the steward for stealing from the Earl.
But as I said, if you get past all this, it is an enjoyable story. When Jaufre returns home from the war her find his new "wife" installed in the castle and decides to keep her around and teach her lesson. Melyssan has been in love with Jaufre since she was a 9 year old child and he saved her from some youths, and he starts to develop some feelings for her once he spends more time with her. She is terrible conscious of not being a beauty and having a disability so she is more sensitive than most, Jaufre has a temper and a natural distrust of women in general and wives in particular which doesn't help advance their relationship. Their biggest problem is lack of communication but also the fact that Jaufre is away for long periods of time, fighting. He has a reputation of having killed his first wife and it will take some time till the mystery of what happened to her comes to light.
I thought the backdrop of the political problems of the time was actually well done and given a bit more space than in most romances. At times it even seemed better explained than the romance itself because what I felt was lacking in Jaufre and Melyssan's story was time to just be a family and create bonds. Jaufre spent too much time troubled and unwilling to trust and then depressed which influences his relationship with Melyssan. I wanted time to see them well again and the end comes about a bit too abruptly for that. Overall I enjoyed reading it but it won't be joining the "my favourite medievals" bookshelf.