Thursday, June 3, 2010

Review: First Knight by Delilah Devlin

While hiding her true identity, Maddie must seduce the mysterious Lord Garon to cement their marriage contract and assure she won't be returned into her lecherous stepfather's care. Fresh from Crusade in Palestine, Lord Garon has a secret he must hide, a hunger that must be fed, and a dark and uncertain future. Having shed himself of a fiance he'd met only briefly years before, he's home to lick his wounds. The only thing he wants is a warm-blooded meal, but the new housekeeper is strangely insistent on giving him more.

This is one of many short stories that are available as ebooks, and it has become one of my favorites. It is a tale set in the early Middle Ages, when knights from all over Europe were hearing the distant call to save the Holy Land from the onslaught of the Infidel. Lord Garon l'Albermarle is one of those knights and after eight years away from his lands and estates, he returns to find a somewhat mousy woman as the steward and housekeeper of his properties and home. But he returns with a heavy heart, as he is now changed. Unknowingly giving himself into the clutches of a Saracen prostitute who was also a vampire, Lord Garon now knows that his “unnatural appetite” as well as his inability to sire any children, coupled with his immortality—it will become noticeable eventually that he never ages—place him at great risk. But more than anything, he wants to return to his home, his birthplace, the land that made him the knight he was when he departed for Crusade. Accompanied by his cousin Raymond who serves as his Captain-in-Arms, Lord Garon faces an uncertain and probably an unhappy future.

Madeleine du Prey waits patiently for her overlord as he enters the castle keep. Knowing that she must do all she can to cement her marriage contract with Lord Garon, she plans her seduction quietly and efficiently, not yet knowing that her soon-to-be husband not only will desire her as any human husband would, but would have her provide for his warm-blood needs as well. Having listened attentively to all the “lessons” given her by the cook and other castle women, Maddy believes that she is prepared to offer herself to Lord Garon, as much for his comfort as for her own future security. Her persistence pays off and the marriage is consummated, thereby preserving the marriage contract and securing Maddy's future with her husband.

Both these main characters are delightful in their own way. Lord Garon is a man of principle who has had his life totally changed and upended by his unwise encounter with a Saracen whore. Yet he loves his land and his people, and hopes that somehow he can find a way to live a peaceful, if not secretive life on his estates. Sheltered and aided by his cousin Raymond, we see a man of great strength who has been brought low in many ways. Yet his early encounters with Maddy speak of his gentle nature and his hopes that try so hard to survive in the midst of what would appear to be a hopeless situation.

Maddy is a woman of her times. She knows that by becoming steward of Lord Garon's estates, she is stepping into a position most often held by a man. She says of herself that she is a woman of “unfeminine opinions.” With intelligence and care, she wins the love of the people of both the castle and the villages, seeing to the planting and harvesting, care and cleaning, health and welfare of all those who are connected to Lord Garon and to his land. Yet she fears her stepfather, a man who, it turns out, is a werewolf, and who desires her for himself.

This is a truly beautiful love story—an unusual knight with an unusual problem, an unusual bond between Lord Garon and Maddy in that she is open and caring in spite of his being a vampire. Cousin Raymond who looks so much like Lord Garon participates in the subtrefuge that hides this dark secret, and Maddy's creativity and her growing love for her husband fuel the budding hope that perhaps in spite of everything, these people can life peaceful and relatively normal lives. The need for offspring to preserve the title lead these three into a menage de trois but it is gentle and loving and filled with caring and hope for the future.

This short story has much in it to enjoy and to actually inspire. It is a story about redemption and about finding the “silver lining” in the cloud. It is a good read and has all the necessary elements of a really good love story. I give this a rating of 4.25 out of 5.

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