Hers to Command
Sisters Mathilde and Giselle are in need of a champion. Their father, Lord Ecclesford, recently died and their odious cousin Sir Roald de Sayre is on his way to take possession of the castle. After Roald’s last visit, when he seduced and then raped Mathilde, her father changed his will to cut out Roald and leave the estate to the two girls. Incensed, and greatly in need of the inheritance to pay off the moneylenders, Roald is making his way toward the estate with an army of mercenaries.
The sisters find their champion in Sir Henry D’Alton, who happens to be passing through the neighborhood. Henry eagerly agrees to help the ladies for he has had some run-ins with the nasty Roald before and knows too well what their fate would be at his hands. And Giselle happens to be very, very beautiful. Henry is a poor, landless knight, but one with powerful family connections, and it would be a very good thing to marry a beautiful heiress. It’s too bad that he seems to be lusting after the plain Mathilde.
Henry is gorgeous, a good-natured smiling man who has always been attracted to feisty women. Mathilde fits that bill to a T, but she is wary of Henry – she has not fared well at the hands of handsome men. As Henry begins to whip the soldiers into shape in preparation for the battle to come, they find hidden depths in each other and are soon in love.
I liked that Henry and Mathilde were able to declare their love fairly early in the novel, and that scene was very tender and sweet. I hadn’t been thrilled with Hers to Command up until then – it is filled with clichés: the smart sister is plain, (for you can’t be smart and beautiful), the wicked cousin, the loner knight, the lusting for each other while intoning the “I’m not worthy” mantra. All these tried and true elements are dealt with rather perfunctorily, as we move from point A to point B to point C. But I took heart after the declaration and consummation scene, only to be frustrated again when both Henry and Mathilde started doing Dumb Things: taking Stupid Risks (like leaving the position of command to jump into the fray because one’s “blood is up”), behaving with Impetuous Carelessness (like running off in the middle of the night to face the villain alone), indulging in Reckless Actions (like throwing oneself into the midst of the battle when one can barely stand from the injuries sustained from a previous Stupid Risk), all of which served to throw the perpetrator into danger, causing them to experience physical harm and my eyes to roll. Very disappointing, and so unnecessary.
Hers to Command had promise and some sweet moments, but as a whole, it was more Giselle (superficial) than Mathilde (smart).