The Truest Heart
Grade : B

The fact that The Truest Heart is an amnesia story, combined with the information in the prologue, worried me. Samantha James definitely had the makings for a typical Big Misunderstanding story here. Fortunately for the reader she doesn't go that route, and the story is a very pleasant and enjoyable surprise.

After a failed attempt on his life, King John wants revenge. Unfortunately the would-be regicide has committed suicide. With no other outlet for his anger, John orders Lord Somerfield to murder the assassin's children, taking Sommerfield's son hostage to ensure he carries out this execution.

Lady Gillian of Westerbrook is in hiding in Cornwall several months later when she comes across the wreckage of a ship. There is only one survivor, and despite warnings from her guardian she takes the man into her care. When the stranger regains consciousness he can only remember that his first name is Gareth. In each other's company constantly, Gillian and Gareth start to fall for each other. Then one day Gareth catches Gillian in the web lies created to keep her safe. He forces her to tell him the truth. Triggered by her tale, his memory starts to return little by little.

But now Gareth has a problem: he has remembered why he's in Cornwall. His name is Lord Gareth of Sommerfield and his mission is to murder Gillian. Now he must figure a way to save the woman he loves without losing his son, as well as convincing Gillian he means to do her no harm.

It was right at this point in the story (about one-third of the way in) I started to cringe. Big Misunderstanding, here we come. Only it never materialized. The author doesn't go down that dreaded path, and instead gives the reader a refreshing tale of falling in love when the fragile foundation of trust has been undermined. Gareth must prove to Gillian he is an honorable man and not a paid assassin, and Gillian must learn to accept his help.

Gareth quickly wins over the reader. He is clearly a man stuck between a rock and hard place. He has no desire to carry out King John's command, but he is a devoted father who cannot risk his son's life. He is also a clever man and the reader will appreciate his quick thinking when the King makes an unexpected visit. He is obviously besotted by Gillian and it is soon obvious he would give his own life before taking hers.

Gillian is a lot harder to warm up to. Because of her situation she is often obstinate, and lashes out at those who try to help her. Yet the reader is fully aware that she's scared. Her parents are dead, her brother is missing, and the person protecting her is supposed to be her executioner. She's a strong woman who, even when the odds are stacked against her, doesn't give in; and even when she realizes she must submit to Gareth's will does it on her own terms.

Even though I found The Truest Heart a refreshing and enjoyable read, it was missing that certain spark that pushes it above a B. I knew Gareth lusted after Gillian, but he never really seemed to get to know her, so his love wasn't quite as believable as Gillian's for him. Gillian saw how he cared for his son, she saw how he protected her, she saw how he treated his people, and learned about his past. Her love for him was quite believable. Unfortunately, the book dropped slightly in my estimation when Gareth tells Gillian that even though he loved his first wife he loves Gillian more. I wished the author hadn't trotted out that old romance novel cliché. It seems first wives are either total bitches or totally perfect - Gareth's first wife fell into the latter category. Why couldn't he he love them equally and still be romantic?

Still, The Truest Heart is a very readable medieval romance with a hero to fall in love with. It is quick-paced, romantic, and, for the most part doesn't fall prey to familiar plot killers. Yes, I can recommend this one.

Reviewed by Jennifer Schendel
Grade : B
Book Type: Medieval Romance

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : July 24, 2001

Publication Date: 2001

Review Tags: 1200s Cornwall amnesia

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Jennifer Schendel

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