Review: Valentine by Heather Grothaus

valentine by heather grothausFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: historical romance
Series: The Brotherhood of Fallen Angels #1
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Date Released: June 23, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Introducing the Brotherhood of Fallen Angels—an epic new series set in the medieval Holy Land, where four heroic Crusaders find themselves caught in the crosshairs of revenge, devotion—and love…

He’s a man of passion and principle. But would he kill for his convictions? That’s the question that has Valentine Alesander fighting for his innocence. He’s been accused, along with three other Brothers, of orchestrating the horrific siege at the Christian fortification of Chastellet. Could this fatefully-named Crusader be a lover, a fighter, and a traitor? One woman from his past is about to find out.

Gorgeous, free-spirited Lady Mary Beckham has escaped her guardians in England to travel across the world—and find the notorious Valentine. Years ago, she was promised to him…and now she wants out of their marriage contract. Mary wants to wed another and requires Valentine’s blessing—until she discovers they share a tempestuous attraction. But with a vengeful band of sworn enemies at Valentine’s heels, is desire worth the risk of losing…everything?

My Review:

Just like the heroine, I fell in love with the face on the cover of this book, and just couldn’t resist reading his story.

Now that I’ve read it, I’ll admit that the picture on the cover does not match the picture in my head, but there is still something arresting about that face. Also something slightly familiar. I think I’ve seen that face before.

Lady Mary Beckham has seen that face before too, but it is long before she remembers. When she was a baby, her parents contracted her in marriage to Valentine Alesander. His parents had saved her parents’ lives, taking them in at their estate in Aragon after a shipwreck.

This is the 1100s, and at least in England, a pre-contract was as valid as a marriage, and also an impediment to any other marriage that either party might want to get into.

Mary grows up with no knowledge of the contract. Her parents died when she was a child, and there is no one to tell her. Mary grows up alone except for servants, at Beckham Hall, and is the heir to her father’s wealth and title, as well as his protectorship of the Cinque Ports that control shipping into England.

In other words, Mary is a prize that no one has come looking for – until one knight breaches the castle walls. He claims to want to marry Mary, and the tale he weaves sounds like something out of the tales of Courtly Love. It is all very chaste, and very pure, and designed to steal Mary’s heart.

It’s only then, with the offer of marriage on the table, that Mary discovers that she is already married. Sort of.

All she has to do is find her erstwhile husband so that he can come back to England and quit his claim of her. Her future husband must never know.

Nothing could be that simple. Her contracted husband is a wanted criminal across all of Europe. He is accused of betraying an important castle to Saladin. It is the Crusades, after all.

With only a little money, a lot of desperation, and more pluck than she ever imagined she had, sheltered Mary Beckham makes her way across Europe to find the man who should have come for her.

Her journey back to England, with Valentine either helping her to elude their pursuit, or shaking his head at the latest mess she has gotten them both into, is an adventure that will change her life.

How else would a slightly dreamy, very sheltered young woman change from a perfect lady into a pirate?

Escape Rating B+: After the first chapter, this story is a delightful romp from beginning to end. The reader is pulled, along with Mary, on a madcap adventure that feels as if it came from the same kind of wildly improbable romance at the heart of The Princess Bride.

It isn’t quite as good, because that would be inconceivable! But Mary’s adventure and rescue, and rescue, and rescue, is in that same spirit, complete with its very own Dread Pirate Roberts.

While there are a couple too many times where the previously sheltered Mary gets them in trouble simply because she has no clue how the underbelly of the world works, combined with Valentine’s unwillingness, or sometimes inability to just tell her what the hell is going on and why, the mad race from Melk, Austria to the coast of England jumps out of the frying pan, into the fire, and back into the frying pan over and over. Valentine and Mary never seem to catch a break, and everyone, everywhere is after them.

Life on the run is one hell of a bonding experience, and Valentine and Mary are drawn to each other like iron filings to a magnet.

Of course, Valentine tries to do the right thing. He thinks that Mary is falling for him because they are on this adventure together, and not the other way around. He is sure that whoever is waiting for her is much better for her than he, wanted criminal that he is, could ever possibly be.

It’s not until the very end that they both finally figure out that not only do they truly love each other, but in a surprising twist of circumstance, her fiance is the evildoer who has been pursuing Valentine all along.

When that particular plot twist hit, I was filled with chagrin that I hadn’t seen it coming. I knew that Mary’s fiance was probably not nearly as virtuous as she thought, but I assumed that he was just after the title that came with her hand. He’s much, much worse than that.

If you are looking for a romantic romp that never lets up on the adventure or the romantic tension, Valentine is marvelous fun!

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