My True Love
Lovers of Karen Ranney’s medieval My Beloved will rejoice to find the magic continues in My True Love, the story of Sebastian’s 17th-century descendant, Stephen Harrington. Sheer romance permeates every page of this tale of a Scottish laird’s daughter whose destiny is intertwined with that of the English earl she has known since childhood, yet never met in the flesh. Despite minor inconsistencies toward the end, and a final conflict that lacks full explanation, the beautiful prose, compelling characters, and memorable scenes make this a story not to be missed.
Anne Sinclair, daughter of Robert Sinclair, laird of Dunniwerth, was only eight when she was awakened by a vision of a young boy, Stephen. This vision was only the first of many that haunted Anne’s childhood. Fifteen years later, she decides to search until she either finds the mysterious Stephen or proves to herself that he is fantasy. Taking advantage of her parents’ absence from Dunniwerth, she embarks in the company of Hannah, a wise woman and her friend since childhood, and two of her father’s men. After crossing into England, they are challenged by a Parliamentarian army, and as they attempt to escape Hannah falls from her horse and is injured.
Stephen Harrington, Earl of Langlinais, is a commander in the Royalist forces. After a battle that left a number of his men dead and Stephen wounded, he’s returned home without leave to take care of his men. Now he looks out his window to see the Parliamentarians chasing a woman across his land, and he goes to her aid. He rescues Anne and her companions and offers them shelter until Hannah is well enough to travel. Anne immediately recognizes Stephen as the man of her visions, but tells no one. Stephen is captivated by this beautiful woman who seems to know him better than he knows himself, but duty to his people, home, and king securely binds him. He must return to his post, and face the consequences of angering the king.
Anne Sinclair is appealing in the complexities of her nature. She is lovely and gentle, wild and fierce, ever determined to live up to the family motto that a Sinclair is brave. Yet she is terrified of storms, and while her initial fear that she might be a witch was laid to rest by Hannah long ago, she continues to harbor a secret fear of insanity until she is able to prove her visions are true. Her love for Stephen is deep and complete, the result of a lifetime of knowing him through her visions.
Stephen, too, is a complex man. His harsh childhood has successfully buried his sensitive and gentle nature beneath layers of hard, inflexible dedication to honor and duty. This has not embittered him, though, and he is a strong and determined leader, loved by the people he rules and serves. There is nothing cardboard about either of these characters; both are a distinctive and believable mixture of virtues and faults. Stephen is not as self-knowledgeable as Anne, but recognizes truth as it is revealed through his interaction with her.
There are strong secondary characters, principal among them being Hannah, the wise woman/friend who seems to be something more, and Richard, a close friend of Stephen’s and the doctor who cares for Hannah. Their developing friendship is a mature counterpart to the fiery passion of Anne and Stephen, and adds depth to the story. Most of the secondaries are masterfully sketched in with minimal strokes that reveal what’s needed to provide sympathetic and compelling characters. The one exception is Ian, Anne’s childhood nemesis. He is left on the periphery to the point that his value to the story is questionable.
There are several unforgettable scenes. When Stephen and Anne meet, he is suffering from a badly infected wound that requires extreme treatment. Anne becomes Stephen’s anesthetic as she talks and croons to him, lending him her courage to see him through. “Latin and lust, it was a powerful combination.” is a tag line for memorable loves scenes that are hot and detailed, yet hauntingly beautiful.
When a crisis arises to back Stephen into a seemingly inescapable corner, he ultimately chooses a path that requires him to break his word, and his easy acceptance of this seems inconsistent with his devotion to honor. Also, there is a sudden emotional estrangement between Stephen and Anne near the end that is not adequately explained, and it leads to a resolution that is perhaps a bit too pat. However, these are minor breaks in an admirably tight and seamless story.
The lyrical quality of writing sets this book apart. Add to that compelling characters, the allure of old secrets, and the danger of the times, and a lover of historicals is bound to enjoy My True Love.