It’s not often I read a book set in the Renaissance period, so imagining the characters’ dress and dwellings was a bit difficult as I began reading The Promise – or it was until I realized that its historical setting is the same as the TV series The Tudors. (I never miss an episode). Historical inconsistencies of that series aside, I sat up, took notice, and found I was able to play the picture beautifully in my mind. <a href="http://www.likesbooks.com/banmanpro/a.aspx?ZoneID=4&Task=Click&Mode=HTML&SiteID=1&PageID=33387 ” target=”_blank”> <img src="http://www.likesbooks.com/banmanpro/a.aspx?ZoneID=4&Task=Get&Mode=HTML&SiteID=1&PageID=33387 ” width=”150″ height=”200″ border=”0″ alt=””>
To say I was quickly drawn into this story is an understatement as I was wowed by the hero from the moment of his first appearance on page 13. I felt a rare excitement – this indeed was my type of story and after only 30 pages I knew it was a winner.
Although Alonsa Garcia de Aranjuez knows she is not in love with the merchant warrior she is to marry, she also has no desire to be separated from him and travels with the families and merchants following the moving army. Years earlier a gypsy cursed Alonsa, vowing that any man who loves her will die and, although she has tried to ignore the gypsy’s words, she has since lived in fear. Now as she watches the third such man in her life die, Alonsa decides to return home to Spain and join a convent. Never again will she subject a man to the power of the curse.
As a professional soldier in the service of Emperor Charles V, Gunter Behaim is accustomed to the unforgiving brutal world found on the battlefield, but has learned through experience that personal betrayals can be just as grueling, leaving him determined to make few promises of his own and to keep those he does make – no matter the cost. When his dying friend, Martin, asks Gunter to marry his betrothed, Gunter balks at the promise even though he selfishly knows it would not be such a difficult pledge to fulfill. He can never love any woman – even the beautiful Alonsa – but a flicker of anticipation flares at the thought of possessing her and he agrees to the man’s last request.
Within hours of Martin’s death, Gunter informs Alonsa of his promise to marry her while, she, in great exasperation, informs him of her decision to become a nun. Neither has any intention of changing their plans and Gunter has no qualms about manipulating his way into Alonsa’s life as she prepares to return home. In his highly confident, almost arrogant manner, Gunter informs her that he is her fate – no matter how she chooses to deny it. Privately both Gunter and Alonsa recognize that from the first moment they met, there is something special, beyond mere attraction, between them. The undercurrent is strong, the chemistry jumps off the page, and their struggle is quite entertaining.
Willing herself to withstand Gunter’s charms, the serious-minded Alonsa quite determinedly prepares to return home only to find Gunter equally determined not to let her out of his sight. Piling his belongings into her departing cart over the sound of her protests, Gunter knows Alonsa will make a worthy opponent in this struggle of theirs. Fully confident that he will win, Gunter greatly anticipates the battle ahead, not because he cares for the woman but rather to keep the promise he made to his fallen comrade – or so he firmly believes.
Compared to the wit and devilish sense of humor (and, yes, alpha tendencies) that characterize Gunter, Alonsa’s sober personality does appear a bit monotonous at times but it is also quite clear that as a couple, the formula works. Gunter’s plainspoken nature hides a great capacity for kindness, consideration, and understanding – all of which work to temper his controlling ways. He is a clear representation of my favorite type of hero.
So, with all this praise, why did this one miss the mark of a DIK? Unfortunately, Alonsa’s constant protests eventually bordered on boring and caused the story to drag a bit around the mid-point of the book. But it quickly resumed its pace and delivered a satisfying final half full of ups and downs and tears and joys.
More time is given to a secondary romance than I usually prefer, but the development of those characters is unique as well as integral to the overall plot. Also, a mysterious knight by the name of Robert is introduced and featured heroically more than once. I’m willing to bet money he has a book in his future. And one last note – although The Promise is a sequel to The Legacy, it performs solidly as a stand-alone.
TJ Bennett is now firmly on my radar and I will watch closely for her next publication. Although I haven’t read The Legacy, it is in my TBR stack and I hope to find in it the same mix of romantic elements I found in The Promise. Humor, dry wit, outrageous hero sexiness, intricate plotting, and shedding a few tears all make for a winning combination in my world.