My Forever Love
The best word to describe Marsha Canham’s My Forever Love would be solid. Considering how hard it is to find good medievals these days, that should be taken as a ringing endorsement. It’s nothing earth-shattering and is a little on the slow side, but it’s also well-written and vivid, with an interesting spin on real-life history. All in all, fans of medieval historicals will want to check this one out.
Ciaran Tamberlane was once a much-respected knight, known as the Dragon Slayer for the skilled fighting he demonstrated during the Crusades. But when he turned against the casual cruelty practiced by some of his countrymen and defended an innocent woman against one of his fellow knights, he was sent home in disgrace. He lives in exile in a modest castle cut off from much of the outside world.
One day while hunting, he finds the village outside his castle under attack by mercenary knights. These men are in the process of destroying the village and killing everyone they find. Tamberlane and his men manage to drive off the attackers, but they find only one survivor: a young woman dressed as a boy. Tamberlane takes the injured woman back to the castle for treatment, not knowing that she isn’t really one of the villagers.
Elizabeth de Langois, called Amaranth by her father, already endured life with one abusive husband. But nothing prepared her for the man she was married off to shortly after the death of her first husband. On their wedding night, Odo de Langois raped and abused her with a viciousness that promised it was only the beginning. Amie responded by grabbing the nearest object and clubbing him over the head with it. Believing him dead, she escaped his home with the help of a kindly priest, who helped her hide in the village. But her husband wasn’t dead, and he would stop at nothing to find her, even if it meant killing everyone in his path to get to her.
Canham’s writing is lush and descriptive, really bringing this story and her setting to life. At the same time, the pace is somewhat slow as a result. This is particularly noticeable in the action-heavy scenes, such as the opening one where Amaranth tries to flee the attack on the village. The paragraphs are very long and detailed, which certainly allows the reader to know every single aspect but also somewhat dilutes the excitement of those scenes.
Still, her characters are empathetic and well-developed. Tamberlane is an interesting hero, a former knight who once lived under a vow of chastity but who is now neither monk nor man. He has much experience with battles and killing, but very little with women, which makes for an interesting contrast. Several noteworthy secondary characters are also thrown into the mix, including Tamberlane’s right hand, Marak, an albino who the suspicious villagers believe practices dark magic but who Amie soon learns is much more benevolent. There’s plenty of compelling drama, much of which is heightened by the truly evil villains (although the emergence of an additional villain late in the story seems somewhat unnecessary).
Canham does a strong job capturing the harshness and brutality of the time period, and also uses real life history in interesting ways. The story takes place just as Richard the Lionheart is about to be ransomed from his Austrian captivity. Amie’s husband has aligned himself with Prince John, and the role the main characters play in Richard’s return is a neat touch.
Good medievals are increasingly hard to find. Luckily, My Forever Love is one.