At first, I rolled my eyes. Simon de Burgh seems to be cut straight from the mold of grunting alpha male. First impressions can be deceiving though, can they not? Simon may have started out as a grunting alpha male in Robber Bride, but it didn’t last long, and his change in attitude is gradual and so puzzling to him and those around him that it is a delight to read.
Simon has always had an intense competition with all of his brothers, but especially with his older brother Dunstan. Not given the opportunity to gain valor and acclaim as quickly as he would like, he chafes at his present assignment, given by none other than Dunstan – he is to act as a glorified steward on one of Dunstan’s estates. On the road to Baddersly Castle, he takes the forest road instead of a safer route, in hopes of finding some action. Action finds him in spades as he and all of his men are captured by a group of bandits who are lead by a woman. Bethia is a puzzle to Simon – she walks around in men’s clothing, knows much about strategy and weaponry, and has a paradoxical aura of command and innocence about her. Simon is infuriated, his pride is chafed, and then he is intrigued. The battle is joined as Simon and Bethia begin a contest of wits and wills.
Simon is an interesting character. He very much exists in a man’s world, and has no use for women (except for the obvious physical release). As he is more and more drawn to Bethia, he is confused and frustrated. Why would only this woman satisfy him, when any would have sufficed in the past? Why does he keep going back when Bethia, even though responsive to him, keeps denying him? He can’t eat or sleep when he is not with her. His world is coming apart and he has no idea that what he is feeling is love. The changes in him are fascinating. Bethia, on the other hand, is more difficult to sympathize with. She is definitely a strong heroine (there can’t be too many of those), is confident and determined, but inflexible. Most of the difficulties that occurred between the couple could have been solved if she had just told Simon what was what.
Robber Bride has an interesting plot, lots of tension between Simon and Bethia, and a few interesting secondary characters, including Simon’s brothers and the steward of Baddersly Castle. The hero is unique, and the heroine wonderfully capable. The castle steward continuously fussing over Simon’s health is a humorous touch. On a side note, I’ve never seen the word tarse used to describe a male member before – confused me for a second or two. This was the third in the de Burgh Brothers series, and it will be interesting to see what happens to the brothers next.