I’m a sucker for tortured heroes and heroines, as well as rich, even intense, historicals, so Mary Reed McCall’s latest novel was a must-read for me. Her tale of love and healing set against the violent dissolution of the Templars is absolutely beautiful. There were a few minor irritants that kept it from being a keeper for me, but overall, this story is definitely a cut above most of the books I read.
Lady Alissande of Surrey and Sir Damien de Ashby were once lovers, but the romance between the noblewoman and a landless, untitled second son of common birth was doomed from the beginning. The two parted as Alissande married the man chosen by her family and Damien became a Templar knight. The two never expected to see one another again, but history and fate intervened.
The Templars find themselves outlaws in France as King and Inquisition declared them heretics, torturing and killing many of them. The novel opens with Damien imprisoned and tortured by the Inquisition in France, while Alissande also finds herself in dire straits upon the death of her husband when she must marry quickly to protect herself from a fortune hunter. Various measures, including a proxy marriage to Damien are arranged, thus ensuring his freedom and her safety from the fortune hunter.
The reunion between Alissande and Damien is awkward at best. When the two parted, each was hurt deeply and the intervening years have not brought them peace or joy. Torture at the hands of the Inquisition has left Damien with both physical and emotional scars. Alissande’s marriage and her current circumstances have not exactly brought her much by way of joy and fulfillment either.
Still, when the two are reunited, they cannot deny that the old attraction is still there. Much of the story revolves around Alissande and Damien finding their way back to one another, and the journey is one many readers will savor. The author does a wonderful job of telling an interesting story while building emotional tension in such a manner that the book is hard to put down. The fact that this author has obviously done her research and that she uses historical background to great effect does much to elevate this story above the common run of romances as well. Alissande and Damien’s world is richly drawn and the vivid images of the characters and their world rendered by McCall made this book a beautifully emotional read for the most part.
There are a few scenes which involve the introduction of what I presume will be future series heroes, and these tended to break the emotional mood of the story at times. This interruption from the narrative, along with a few awkward bits of dialogue, keep this from being an absolute keeper for me, but it does come very close. Fans of medieval historicals or simply anyone who craves a rich and emotional story should check this one out.