The Damsel is the second book in the Bride Quest series, which follows the adventures of three brothers who each must search for and win brides. I have not read The Princess, the first book in the trilogy, but The Damsel stands clearly on its own and I had no problem following what most likely occurred in the first book. The Damsel takes place in the year 1172 in Ireland and is, as the author mentions, truly a Cinderella tale.
Burke de Montvieux has returned to Kiltorren Castle after a three-year absence, to try to win the hand of Alys of Kiltorren, whom he met while competing in the tourneys. When Burke first met Alys three years earlier, he was immediately attracted to her but confused as to why her family so readily dismissed her presence. Alys lived at Kiltorren Castle with her aunt and uncle and two cousins, but was not given equal treatment as befitting a member of the family. She was treated no better than the hired help and was subjected to cruelties and strenuous labor about the castle.
After obtaining an introduction, Burke decides this is the lady he will pursue and attempts to learn more of her. Alys is receptive to him and his pursuit of her. Unfortunately, while in the stables, they are caught in a compromising situation. Alys flees the stable, and though Burke offers for her hand through her family, he is told Alys refuses to wed him. He leaves the castle hurt and confused.
Burke and Alys have many misunderstandings and barriers to overcome. When Burke returns to Kiltorren, he tries to regain Alys’ trust, though he does not know why she is put out with him. Alys and her family assume Burke is there to court Alys’ spoiled cousin. Alys has lived all her life suffering mistreatment at the hands of the only family she has known. She doesn’t know who her father is, and never knew her mother, who died when Alys was very young. She has grown up with the belief that, because she is illegitimate, she will make the same mistakes her mother made, and is certain to be branded a whore.
This story was extremely well written. I found Burke to be a very persistent and determined suitor who wouldn’t give up, even when faced with the bleakest of circumstances. Here is a man who is willing to do anything to prove to Alys he is a man of honor, including finding husbands for her cousins.
There is a lot of action and adventure in this book, and the reader will be cheering for Burke on in his quest to win his bride. The ending is priceless as Alys discovers to what extent people will go in the name of greed, or to win what they want. The Damsel is definitely a worthwhile read, and I’m looking forward to completing the trilogy.