The Mistress of Rosecliffe
The Mistress of Rosecliffe succeeds in providing plenty of Medieval flavor set against the backdrop of the Welsh-English conflict. This well written tale, with an interesting although familiar plot, makes for the final installment in Rexanne Becnel’s Rosecliffe trilogy.
Isolde FitzHugh is determined not to marry the uninspiring man her father has chosen for her; instead she wants someone who will burst into her life and change it forever. Watching her from beneath his minstrel disguise, Rhys ap Owain is planning something very much like that, but not because of any romantic sentiment. His vengeance has been carefully plotted and he sees victory within his grasp the day he enters Rosecliffe Castle, while Isolde’s family is traveling to London for the new King’s coronation.
Isolde, inexplicably drawn to the man whose eyes never seem to leave her, loses sight of what consequences may follow an improper relationship and discovers only too late, and in a rather unsettling scene, that the man she has given her heart and body to is her old enemy who wants nothing more than to see her family destroyed. Rhys, who has been acting like the tender lover Isolde has been dreaming of, drops the façade and becomes coldly resolute, taking every opportunity to humiliate her and show her who is the true master of Rosecliffe.
The rest of the castle inhabitants have no choice but to submit to the Welsh knight who has bested them. In this, Isolde must lead her people, acting serene and acquiescent in order to prevent further bloodshed. When her parents (Rand and Josselyn of The Bride of Rosecliffe) and her aunt and uncle (Jasper and Rhonwen of The Knight of Rosecliffe) are informed of what has taken place at Rosecliffe, they rush back to save Isolde, although both Josselyn and Rhonwen wonder privately if Isolde, who was once kidnapped by Rhys, might be the one woman who can tame him.
I had a very difficult time understanding Isolde; she starts out as a spoiled child who orders everyone to serve the best food and flaunt the best castle finery because her parents are away and she’s doing as she pleases. Her illogical love for the man who repeatedly humbles her and who means to kill the FitzHughs is hardly an improvement in her character.
Rhys sees very little beyond his ardent need for vengeance. He is obviously taken with Isolde from the first moment but never misses an opportunity to boast about his superiority, and yet he is conveniently nearby whenever she is in danger.
The biggest problem with the hero and heroine is that they never talk. I mean never. They fight, they make love. Rhys orders Isolde to do something she doesn’t want to do, they make love. Isolde screeches back that he will pay for what he is doing, they make love. Endlessly, they provoke one another, Rhys taunting, Isolde defying, usually with a love scene waiting in the wings. Even when Isolde realizes that her family is coming back, they don’t talk. She fears her father and uncle will die, or that if they best Rhys he will die, and still, I kept waiting for someone to say something pertinent, but instead, Isolde paints her murals.
I might have liked the book better with some more communication between the leads. If you’ve enjoyed the previous two entries then you will probably like The Mistress of Rosecliffe, but for me, it was too much of an uneven ride.