Desert Isle Keeper
Lady of Valor
Do you remember the first really good medieval romance you read? How it completely captivated you and swept you away to another time and place, how you felt as if you were in the moment? It may have been a Jude Deveraux, or a Julie Garwood, or perhaps it was another author but you get the idea. Tina St. John’s Lady of Valor reminded me how much I love a medieval setting. I started this book on a crowded plane back from London and soon I was transported to the year 1192 – which is a very good thing, because the gentleman sitting in front of me was no romance hero!
It is the year 1192 in the Holy Land when our story begins. Cabal, better known as Blackheart, is standing over the dead body of Garrett of Fallonmour, who was supposedly killed by a prisoner. Cabal is a warrior, a soldier through and through. He is a man who believes he has little conscience left anymore. King Richard charges him with the task of traveling to Fallonmour and watching over the hold and Garrett’s widow until the king makes provisions for both. While not completely happy with this task, Cabal takes it on without complaint.
Garrett’s widow Emmalyn has spent the three years of her husband’s absence making a life for herself and the people of Fallonmour. Her husband was a horror, and Emmalyn feels nothing when she hears of his death from Cabal. What she’s upset about is the thought of losing Fallonmour and having to remarry. Fallonmour is her home and she is determined to stay there. Unfortunately, Garrett’s brother Hugh de Wardeaux wants it too. With the King having been kidnapped on his way home from the Holy Land, Prince John is attempting to take over the crown, and Hugh is one of John’s most ardent supporters. Emmalyn feels her only hope is to contact the dowager Queen, Eleanor.
From the start, Cabal and Emmalyn appear to be at cross-purposes. Emmalyn does not want Cabal there at all. She feels he is usurping her place as head of the holding. Cabal is there to do a job and protect the holding, and he won’t let anyone get in the way of this. But he’s not just an arrogant man seeking to enhance his own power by doing this; he sees a real weakness in the keep – not enough soldiers to protect it – and he sets about correcting this. Emmalyn tends to lead with her emotions and Cabal seems to lead with his strength. Together, they make a great team. I thoroughly enjoyed watching these two move, warily at first, around each other.
In time, Emmalyn comes to trust Cabal and Cabal begins to appreciate the kind of woman Emmalyn is. Cabal doesn’t feel he’s worthy of Emmalyn, though, and he is keeping a pretty major secret from her. I was pleasantly surprised though, when this secret was revealed. Emmalyn, knowing Cabal, did not think the worst of him, but the best. Brava to Ms. St. John for not falling into the big misunderstanding trap.
Yes, the two are attracted right away to each other but when they do make love, there is a definitely a very strong emotional bond between them, and that was also a pleasant surprise. Cabal is a tortured hero and if you like those, you’ll love him – he is a good man who thinks he has lost what makes him a human being. As for Emmalyn, she’s spunky without being annoying. She’s strong and independent. It was a joy to watch these two fall in love.
Ms. St. John paints a wonderfully vivid picture of the time and of the people. If you are looking for a great medieval, look no further than Lady of Valor.