The De Burgh Bride
Elene Fitzhugh is a termagant, well-versed in the use of sharpened daggers and a sharper tongue. With her long thick red hair hanging matted in front of her face, a shrieking cursing voice, and a reputation for having killed her first husband, men tend to stay as far away from her as possible, including the men of her demense.
Geoffrey, oh, Geoffrey de Burgh, warrior and scholar, he’s patience and courtesy incarnate. Elene mocks him by calling him Saint Geoffrey, but honestly, he deserves that sainthood. He draws the short straw when the king’s edict reaches his father that one of the de Burgh knights has to wed The Fitzhugh.
Geoffrey is this rare human, medieval or modern, who takes the plate he’s been served and does full justice to the food placed therein. He gives his marriage his all, not losing his cool or his courtesy even in the face of her insults, shrieks, threats to his person at knife-point, and lack of bathing or reading skills.
And in so doing, he shows Elene what it is to behave humanely to others. He shows her what it means to be strong and kind, to be humble and sexy, to be patient in everything and yet impatient in intimacy. And above all, he shows her what it means to respect and understand another person.
Geoffrey cracks that hard shell of defense with which Elene has surrounded herself by being the best person he can be. She watches him do it day in and day out and she learns slowly but surely. This gradual birth of Elene de Burgh into gracious lady of the manor and Geoffrey’s lover and helpmeet is very well presented.
My quibble with the book is how long in the story Elene’s tantrums and her looking evilly through her hair last. I felt very sorry for Geoffrey for much of it, while admiring his fortitude. I also didn’t understand his attraction towards her for the first half of the book. I did eventually understand why Elene was the way she was and come to admire her transformation, but I would’ve liked more time spent towards convincing the reader that the HEA was going to be a lasting one.