The Templar's Seduction
The Templar’s Seduction is the first Mary Reed McCall novel I’ve read, though it is the last book in her Templar Knights series, and, rumor has it, her last book for a while.
Sir Alex de Ashby is “a man bound by his own instincts for self-preservation above all else.” He was drummed out of the Knights Templar for unbecoming behavior and been in and out of prison – including a nasty stint during the French Inquisition – ever since. He is in another pickle, about to be hanged for theft, when he is offered a chance to save his life. Alex bears a remarkable resemblance to Robert, the late Earl of Marston and Lord of Dunleavy Castle which lies on the troublesome Scots border.
The English have been trying to take the castle, but it has been ruled and held by Lady Elizabeth since her husband was captured by the English six years ago, just months after their wedding. Though her husband died in prison, word has not reached her and Alex’s job is to take Robert’s place, find the castle’s weaknesses and provide the English with the information needed to take the fortress. His freedom and the life of a friend held hostage to Alex’s good behavior are at stake.
Beth is immediately struck with the feeling that this is not her husband – there is a leashed power, a hint of mischief in his eyes, and in his kisses, that she doesn’t remember in her Rob, even though he looks like him, albeit with more scars. Is this truly not her husband or have their few months together, and the years apart, made her memory faulty? And what of the two Englishmen he brought with him? She doesn’t trust them, and they seem to watch her husband very closely.
I liked both Alex and Beth very much. Both are attracted to the other and are conflicted about it. Alex must allay Beth’s fears and seduce his “wife” for it would blow his cover to not have relations with her. While his seduction begins as a means to an end, he quickly comes to admire Beth’s intelligence, beauty, and spirit. It is not long before he falls in love with her, and the closer he gets to his goal, the more guilt he feels. He moves from a man who is looking out for Number One to one desperate to find a way to keep both Beth and his friend safe.
Beth allows herself to be seduced, gradually ignoring the niggles of disquiet which surround her “husband” and falling in love. The fact that “Rob” shows obvious scars of torture go a long way toward softening her heart toward him. Her reaction when she learns the truth is both as one would expect and surprising at the same time. She’s a strong woman forced to make tough decisions, and I liked that about her.
This is the last book in a series and there was a time or two that I felt I would have liked some more information about previous events and people, but for the most part, I didn’t feel lost or unable to connect the dots. The previous heroes/heroines make the obligatory appearance toward the end, and, while it was a bit hard to keep the relationships all straight, they do serve a purpose and are not just window dressing. Until the overly-sweet epilogue, that is. But fans of the series will probably enjoy the sappy ending. I know that I’m usually a sucker for these kinds of scenes at the end of a series I’ve followed, myself.
The Templar’s Seduction is a stand-out Medieval in an era all too neglected lately. I’m sorry to be losing McCall just as I’ve discovered her, but I will be seeking out her backlist.