Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: The Tarnished Lady by Sandra Hill

You may remember my mentioning that wonderful second-hand bookstore in Minneapolis to which I was introduced during my recent stay there. This is one of the books I discovered while wandering through those stacks. It is not one of Ms Hill's new books. In fact, it is about 15 years old, but I really enjoyed it and would love to share it with you now.

Banished from polite society for bearing a child out of wedlock, Lady Eadyth of Hawks' Lair spent her days under a voluminous veil, tending her bees. But when her son's detested father threatened to reveal the boy's true paternity and seize her beloved lands, Lady Eadyth sought a husband who would claim the child as his own.

Notorious for loving and leaving the most beautiful damsals in the land, Eirik of Ravenshire was England's most virile bachelor. Yet when a mysterious beekeeper offered him a vow of chaste matrimony in exchange for revenge against his most hated enemy, Eirik couldn't refuse. But the lusty knight's plans went awry when he succumbed to the sting of the tarnished lady's love.

This delightful story is set in the time of England's most turbulent past--a time when the Picts & Scots, the Saxons and the Norse were all struggling for supremacy and land and the power that went with it. It is a time when knights, lords, ladies, earls, dukes, and all the aristocracy were little trusted--when loyalty could be easily bought and sold, when a king sat uneasily on the throne and for only a short span of time. It is a time when the rights of women were non-existent, and the power of a woman to hold her property was far too easy to overcome. Thus, Lady Eadyth of Hawks' Lair knew that without the protection of a husband who would also be a father to her son, she stood little chance against a powerful aristocrat who not only wanted her son but all her land as well.

There was only one problem: Lady Eadyth really didn't want marriage in its truest form. She wanted a business arrangement. She sought out Lord Eirik because he had the exact same coloring of hair and eyes as her son and her son's father. She had been conned and heartbroken by that man who had claimed to love her, to whom she had given her reputation and her future, only to have her son repudiated and abandoned. So she makes this business proposal to Lord Eirik who is only open to her proposal because he hates her son's father as much as she does.

This is a wonderful historical romance in its truest sense. It is full of the color, stresses, strains, push and pull of that turbulent time. It is full of the sounds and sights of ancient England and it resonates with the hopes and disappointments of both Lady Eadyth and Lord Eirik. In these characters Sandra Hill has poured her creativity and used them to tell of the hurts and hopes that those ancient marriages contained. She deals with the ever burdensome necessity of finding a place in family and society for illegitimate offspring, along with the very iffy nature of power and the worries of those who hold it. It reveals the kinds of relationships that characterized life in those times, and in the context of those times and the lives of those fictional characters is told the story of Eadyth and Eirik, two very strong individuals who had no choice but find a different way to live their dreams and deal with their failures.

I started out reading historicals many years ago because I learned so much from them while being greatly entertained. They continue to fascinate me, and this book is the kind of fiction that continues to inform as well as absorb the attention of an avid reader like me. There is loving, friendship, family, comedy, heartbreak, betrayal, and suspense throughout this story. There are some twists in the plot and the development of the story that are welcome as they add spice to the story and keep it from becoming ordinary and pedantic.

I liked this book a whole lot and recommend it for those lovers of historical fiction that may have grown a bit tired of the Regency period or novels that seem to conform to the same plot style and progression. Sandra Hill has given us something informative, entertaining, and worthy of the time it takes to read it. I don't think you can do a whole lot better. I give this novel a rating of 4.25 out of 5.

No comments: