Silver Wind by Linda Cook sets a rather nice romance against the backdrop of political intrigue and danger in twelfth-century Wales. Although I liked the setting and both protagonists, the serpentine and confusing story ultimately left me a little cold.
Adeline is the daughter of a Welsh chieftain, Caerdoc, who has been known to cause trouble, so for the last several years the Normans have held her hostage as a surety of her father’s good behavior. Now a disgraced Norman, Simon Taillebrac, has been assigned garrison duty on Caerdoc’s front doorstep. Simon has lost his lands, his fortune, and his honor, and his new job is to keep Caerdoc in line. Meanwhile, William of Longchamp, the man who is effectively in charge of England since King Richard left on crusade, tells Adeline that she can go home, but she must spy on Simon Taillebrac, who is Longchamp’s enemy. If she does not do this, Longchamp threatens to march into the Welsh valley and destroy her family.
Confused? Wait, it gets worse. When Adeline goes home, Caerdoc says that the situation between his men and Simon’s is so tense that he intends to send her away to safety. Adeline knows that she must not leave, because then Longchamp will act out his threat. So she manipulates her father into manipulating Simon into marrying her. He does.
It’s all pretty hard to follow. What’s worse is that the author doesn’t really provide the historical detail to help the reader make sense of it all. For instance, she never makes clear (as I did in my summary) that Longchamp is the guy who’s ruling England in King Richard’s absence. I’m not familiar with this period in history, so I looked him up in the encyclopedia. I would rather I hadn’t had to do that.
Also, the complex story gives people very complex reasons for doing the things they do. I was quite startled to learn that Adeline intends to marry Simon, will he or nil he, because that’s only way she can continue spying on him and sending reports to Longchamp, which is the only thing that is keeping Longchamp from riding in and killing them all, so in reality she’s doing it because she wants to protect him. After a while, I stopped questioning people’s motives for doing things, because their motives were so convoluted it was easier to passively accept them than to try to understand them. That is not really the best way to enjoy a book.
Amidst all this confusion, the romance between Simon and Adeline is sweet and touching. Simon married Adeline for a variety of complex reasons that I won’t go into here, but the fact is that he feels his days are numbered and he thinks that it would be a sin to get Adeline pregnant. So the two of them spend a lot of time together before they ever make love, and they get to know each other. I enjoyed the growth of their relationship, and their eventual consummation, while fairly subtle, was also very romantic.
The political forces set in motion come together in a satisfying climax between Simon, Longchamp, and Caerdoc. The Welsh chieftain emerges as the real hero of this confrontation. Then Simon and Adeline run off together … and the book sort of trails off. I suppose that if I had tracked every twist and turn of the plot this ending might have made sense to me, but I hadn’t, and it didn’t, and frankly Simon and Adeline’s future didn’t look too bright to me. When I looked in Britannica I learned that Longchamp would get chucked out of England in a year or so, which helped. But once again, why couldn’t the author have told me that, instead of forcing me to resort to looking in a reference book? I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that so begged for an explanatory epilogue.
I can’t quite give Silver Wind a recommendation – I felt a little too bewildered at the end. But if you like medievals and enjoy romances in which the hero and heroine fall thoroughly in love before they consummate their relationship, you might want to pick this up. There were parts of it that I did enjoy, and a more knowledgeable reader might like it even more.