"A tale of love and trust, honour and courage."
"England, winter, 1131 Elfrida, spirited, caring and beautiful, is also alone. She is the witch of the woods and no man dares to ask for her hand in marriage until a beast comes stalking brides and steals away her sister. Desperate, the lovely Elfrida offers herself as a sacrifice, as bridal bait, and she is seized by a man with fearful scars. Is he the beast? In the depths of a frozen midwinter, in the heart of the woodland, Sir Magnus, battle-hardened knight of the Crusades, searches ceaselessly for three missing brides, pitting his wits and weapons against a nameless stalker of the snowy forest. Disfigured and hideously scarred, Magnus has finished with love, he thinks, until he rescues a fourth 'bride', the beautiful, red-haired Elfrida, whose innocent touch ignites in him a fierce passion that satisfies his deepest yearnings and darkest desires."
Probably an ideal read for a hot summer afternoon on a baking beach - I say this because the story is set in winter, and the author is very good at making her readers feel the cold!
A romance, yes, ticking all the boxes, but not your usual knights in armour chivalry; this is a story about women used for what they are often seen as in this period (and, alas, other periods, even today) - for sexual pleasure. It is also a tale of love and trust, honour and courage.
Elfrida, our main character is a wise-woman, a woman of learning. Through her we notice the plants that make herbal remedies. We see her too, as others see her - a witch. Magnus makes a wonderful hero, again not the normal handsome hunk, but a battle-hardened, scarred man who has seen the world and the horrors it can deliver. The passion between the two is as realistic and believable as the author's detail of the landscape.
A Beauty and the Beast type story, and book one of a series. Some of the contemporary-style dialogue were perhaps a little too modernistic for the 1100s, I found the italics used for thoughts a bit of a sideways nudge to the flow, and maybe some 'adult' scenes will not endear it to all readers... but I thoroughly enjoyed the romantic escapism!
© Mary Chapple