Jayce Cullen has been fighting her fear of thunder and lightning ever since she was a child, but nothing could have prepared her for the fury of her new husband. Feeling deceived and betrayed into a loveless marriage, Lord Reese Harrington wants nothing to do with his new wife. Trapped in a marriage with no escape, the beautiful young bride must battle the demons of her husband’s past and hope that she can weather the storm his brutish behavior unleashes.
We here in So. California have a fun place called Medieval Times, and there one can be served by authentically dressed tavern wenches, eat with no silverware and the food is on flat boards called trenchers. The show is complete with a royal procession and a joust–good guys and bad guys abound. It is great theatre and one has the sense that time has been spent in another historical period. But it doesn’t even come close to spelling out the raw horror of what it meant to be a woman in 14th century England. Within the politics of land and money and aristocratic rank, women were chattal by reason of their ownership by father or husband. And while I really have always like the Medieval period in Western European history, I shudder to think what it would be like to have no power even over my own person. Add in the fact that husbands were never required to even like their wives, much less treat them with care and consideration. They were there to birth heirs, period. They were trained to run the castle within clearly defined boundaries set by their lord and master. And if they didn’t like the way things were going, too bad.
In this novella the usual situations surrounding aristocratic marriage are complicated by the addition of a hostage situation–the sister of the bridegroom is kidnapped and held until her brother marries the kidnapper’s daughter and the marriage is consummated. But the husband, Lord Reese Harrington, is a brute. He witnessed his mother’s infidelity, the pain and hurt to his father, the death of his parents because of that infidelity and having to raise a half-brother from infancy. He has determined he will never marry anyone he doesn’t court or come to love. Lady Jayce Cullen/Harrington doesn’t fulfill that requirement by a long shot and so he is preparing a letter to the king to anul the marriage now that his sister has been returned to him.
This is a story that is filled with hurt and disappointment, with the sense that one has been abandoned on all fronts, that there really will be nowhere for Lady Jayce to go so that she will be cast out with little or nothing, into a future that is completely unknown. Instead of a father who has sheltered and loved her through the death of her mother and the other issues that are distressing to her, she has been brought into a situation that is none of her doing. The reader will have little problem feeling her pain and sense of confusion over the way her life has taken this tragic turn.
I usually stay away from novellas as I don’t think there are a lot of authors who are adept at using an economy of word and thought to make each page count. Here Ms O’Donnell does a very good job of keeping the action edgy and lean, keeping the characters sharp and vivid, and keeping the action of the story moving along at a good pace. The ending is a bit abrupt, but I found that often to be the case in novellas. However, the crisis that is really the totality of Lady Jayce’s marriage is ultimately resolved in a surprising way. Perhaps Lord Reese isn’t quite the brutish boor he appears to be. I think historical romance fans will like this short work. It will be a nice piece to fill a bit of time and will be a very satisfying read.
I give it rating of 3.75 out of 5
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.