The Maiden Bride
The Maiden Bride is a Medieval romance in all its glory. The feel is there, the taste, the smell, the war-hardened men, the superstitions, the love, and the hate.
In order to protect her beloved twin sister from marriage to a brutal Norman lord, Lady Linnea, doomed since birth as a “devil child,” decides to marry the brute herself. Desperate to prove herself worthy in the eyes of her family, she will forfeit herself in the knowledge that when the truth comes out, she will be ruined. She loves her sister Beatrix more than herself and will sacrifice all to save her family’s estate.
Axton de la Manse is the Norman brute. Eager for revenge and to re-take the estate that had once been his family’s, he marries Linnea, thinking she is Beatrix. The proud and passionate woman he marries bewitches him, as he does her. He plans to bind her to him through the passion he feels from her. But he has met his match.
Linnea, the false Beatrix, is in quite a fix. She is starting to love her husband but realizes she will have to betray him to save the real Beatrix and her estate. Her fiercely grand husband, with a temper to match, is starting to accept her for herself, which no one save the real Beatrix had ever done. Even his family has, grudgingly, come to accept her.
When the truth is revealed, there is hell to pay. All the worst that Linnea expects from Axton comes to pass. But the strength that Linnea has gained in her time with Axton allows her to confront her family, seeing them in a way she had never done before. Although she loves her sister as a part of herself, she realizes Beatrix is not so much good as weak.
Linnea’s grandmother, Lady Harriet, is the true villain in this story, and what a villain she is! She has hated and feared Linnea since her birth and, indeed, wanted to kill her. She settled for Linnea’s being maimed, marked by a hot iron to brand her as evil. While Linnea finally confronts her grandmother and realizes she is nothing but a horrible old woman, there is, unfortunately, no grand confrontation, not between herself and her grandmother, nor between Axton and the old bat. Too bad, because I would have relished this scene and felt its lack.
The Middle Ages were a time when women were thought to be without honor, incapable of it. Axton, on the one hand, can see Linnea’s actions as honorable – her lies were to protect her family. On the other hand, since she betrayed him (and the love for her he can’t admit), he is out for more revenge. Though the passion they always shared was an arena for their honest emotions, he can’t help using her, hurting her, lashing out because of the pain she has caused him.
The betrayals here are keen, and wrenching. To have spent his whole life to regain his family’s estate, to win it, and then maybe lose it, all at the hands of a woman, and a woman he nearly gave his heart to, is nearly more than Axton can bear. And Linnea? To have given herself to this man, to love him, and then to see him marry her sister, is nearly more than Linnea can bear. To add salt to the wound, her sister is scared witless by her wonderful Axton!
The solution the author comes up with is fitting, and Axton’s winning of the right twin is poignant. Rexanne Becnel has written another fine Medieval that is as engrossing and evocative of the Medieval period as Dove at Midnight. While this reviewer believes that Linnea deserved a scene or two of Axton defending her, that is a minor quibble. The war these two go through to win each other’s love should probably be enough. This is an intense story that deserves to be read – so do it!