Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Linnet - Elizabeth English

Everyone within miles of Aylsford Keep knows the notorious reputation of Lady Maude Darnley, only twenty-one yet inflamed with a temper so sharp it can draw blood. But few know the terror and anguish her temper conceals, and no one dares to breach the wall of ice that seems to encase her. Only the Irishman Ronan Fitzgerald sees beneath her haughty and cruel manner to another Maude--one who exists in spite of the hatred that taints every Darnley and Kirallen caught in the feud. Stranger in a strange land, Ronan is at Aylsford as both minstrel and healer.

Bound by oath to look after Maude, Ronan's growing fascination--and attraction--compels him to seek out her secrets, her innermost desires. Neither expects the passion that springs between them or a love so powerful and true it promises to break the endless cycle of hatred, and to triumph over violence...

I had this book in the TBR pile for some time. It's a medieval and I had heard it was a bit different than your usual alpha male/feisty heroine pairing that seems to appear in most books so I decided to save it for when I was in the right mood.

The story starts with something that happened 7 years before, something horribly violent that changed Maude Darnley forever. At the time of illness she was cared for Fergus, a healer, and ever since she got well he has been waiting for her to call him when she has need of him. But she has enclosed herself behind an icy mask, pretending that all is well and never did. Feeling his death approaching Fergus asks his apprentice, Ronan, to go find her and help her but doesn't tell him what happened. When Ronan meets Maude she is her usual haughty self and effectively manages to insult him and drive him away. But Ronan feels bound by his oath to Fergus not to leave and then he realises how cleverly she has shut him out on purpose and persists in getting to know her.

Maude slowly opens up to Ronan due to their shared love of music. In time she trusts him enough to tell him about the shadows who don't let her sleep (there's a bit of a paranormal element) and about what really happened to her 7 years ago. This is the third book in a trilogy and it is mentioned several times some bad things that Maude has done in the past. She is aware of them and she feels responsible, she doesn't find excuses for what she other than that she was frightened and didn't know what else to do. I haven't read the previous books so I can't judge but this story stands alone quite nicely.

This is neither a merry book nor a light book. Bad things really happened to people, especially during a feud between families as we have here, and even after healing the scars are never far from the surface. We see Maude and Ronan falling in love but we can see that they won't have an easy journey to their happy ending. I did really like Maude and Ronan, they were rich, complex characters and this is a multi-layered story that will take the reader on an emotional journey. Ronan and Maude are both scarred by their past and their future can't be the usual marriage and babies. But not everyone has to have the same fate to find happiness and I was quite satisfied with how English concluded their story. Her characterization of the people and the period has depth and it's engaging so she left me hoping for more of her books. Unfortunately it seems this was her only trilogy...

Grade: 4/5

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