Thursday, September 1, 2016

Review: The Saxon Bride (The Norman Conquest #1) by: Ashley York

Title: The Saxon Bride (The Norman Conquest #1)

Author: Ashley York
Genre: Historical Romance, Medieval
Length: 222 pages
Publisher: Indie
Release Date: August 8, 2014
Source: Review Request
Rating: 3 ½
Heat Rating: 3
Reviewed by: Vashti

In war torn England the battle lines between Saxon and Norman are clearly drawn. Rowena Godwinson, the sole remaining member of the defeated royal family, stands proudly against the Normans that would trample them underfoot. Her nobility and grace, however, make her an ideal pawn in King William's play for power with the Saxon people. When he decrees she marry a powerful Norman knight, her subjugation appears to be complete. Can she hold firm to her Saxon heritage and refuse to give in to his tempting advances?

John of Normandy is rewarded for his service and loyalty with land, titles, and a Saxon beauty for a bride. John balks at the marriage, driven by the secret guilt of knowing Rowena's father died by his sword. As their people look to them for guidance and peace, can John and Rowena find a love that unites all of England?

As a lover of medieval history this book quickly caught my attention.

The year is 1071 Essex England just five years after the Norman defeat of the Saxon King at the Battle of Hastings.  Two  unlikely people are brought together against their own will to unite the Norman and Saxon people.  Rowena Godwinson, daughter of the late Earl of Essex, and John of Normandy, a powerful and trusted Knight to the Norman King William are ordered to marry.  The King has given John a time frame in which to bring the Saxon's under subjugation.

John had no desire for power and never wanted to marry because of his questionable heritage.  Rowena certainly never dreamed of marrying a Norman Knight responsible for the downfall of her family.  Somehow these two will have to to have to come together and build a life beyond deception, distrust, prejudices, and misplaced assumptions.

One thing that I dislike about the Medieval era, is how young the brid's actually were, but Mrs. York brings the story together after Rowena has matured and weaves her magic and brings medieval history into romance fiction book.

Rowena knows her duty, and is determined to do her duty to God, country and husband.  Her loyal friend Arthur is always waiting in the wings to capture her should she fall. I had a love-hate relationship with Arthur in the beginning and I genuinely felt sorry for the loss to him and his family. That had to be particularly hard to come to terms with and not seek revenge, especially given the time period.  However, Arthur's actions towards the end are unforgivable (you'll have to read the book to find out what those actions are).   

Rowena's handmaiden Joan was another early on love/hate relationship for me. She seemed to care about Rowena and have her best interest at heart in the beginning, but  as the story progressed, she almost seemed like a modern-day woman, in that she spoke very freely with Rowena, her mistress and Lady of the Manor.  Joan caused Rowena undue distress and confusion in her marriage.  She was constantly meddling, and making Rowena feel belittled by her man and I was glad to see her finally put in her place! Even more so than Arthur I think.  I also was never sure about her age as the only real description given is of her blond hair.

John is handsome (the face of an angel to be exact), kind and loyal to the King.  The Big fault I found with Him was that I could not understand his reasoning for not consummating his marriage.  I get that he wanted Rowena to be willing, well several times she was more than willing, and he walked away?? I just couldn't wrap my head around that one.  I found myself asking did he prefer a "Rowen" instead of "Rowena"?  Just sayin...   Not to worry, he wants Rowena, which is made comically evident in the Siren bathing scene (again, you have to read the book, I wont give away any spoilers)  But...., and theirs always a but, I don't know any man, well maybe a eunuch, that walks away from a naked, willing, and beautiful women (maybe I did give away something here).   Heck,  for that matter I don't know any man that would walk away from a naked, willing women, even if she had the face of a dog and smelled like an ass.  Aside from this flaw, which he does rectify satisfactorily, John is a decent man.

Sir John's right-hand man and fellow Knight Peter was someone I didn't like at first, but he genuinely grew on me and ended up being one of my favorite characters.  He is a warrior, loyal and lover of the ladies.  I can't wait to read his HEA.

There are a few other shady characters thrown in the story.  This was a time of power and political upheaval after all,  so sometimes underhanded alliances and fealty was a matter of survival.  I didn't see the purpose of  Mort of Bedgrove's character to the story.  I know what he was, but in my opinion, he really added nothing to the story.   I would have also liked an epilogue.  I was left wondering about John's lineage as it is hinted that The King knows more than he has revealed to John concerning his lineage and that possibly he may be of noble blood.  Maybe that will be cleared up in future books.  I also would like to have learned if  John and Rowena got another "blessing".  Read the book to see what the blessing was!

Overall I highly recommend this to lovers of medieval romance. It was engaging, sometimes very sad and at times quite humorous ie: 
  1. John needing a bath so his B.O. isn't offensive
  2. John thinking that "common sense seemed a foreign concept to both father and daughter, 
  3. Morts offer of fulfilling any service John may need,
as well as a few other comical scenes, which may not have been intended that way but the delivery was just down right funny to me. Mrs. York has done a wonderful job of marrying history, intrigue, and romance weaving it all together into a beautiful story. I EAGERLY, look forward to the next book in the series!!! 

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