Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: historical romance
Series: Courtly Love #1
Length: 348 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: July 7, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository
He’d defend her keep…
After proving himself on the field of battle, Ramon de Segrave is appointed to the Council of Barons by Richard the Lionheart. But instead of taking his most formidable warrior on his latest Crusade, the king assigns Ramon an even more dangerous task—woo and win the Lady of Thistle Keep.
If only she’d yield her heart…
Isabel of Camoys is a capable widow with no intention of surrendering her valuable estate. She’s fought long and hard for her independence, and if the price is loneliness, then so be it. She will not yield… even if she does find the powerful knight’s heated embrace impossible to ignore.
But when her land is threatened, Isabel reluctantly agrees to allow Ramon and his army to defend the keep—knowing that the price may very well be her heart.
This is a book that gave me very, very, downright extremely, mixed feelings.
A Sword for His Lady is a medieval romance, taking place during the Crusades, although the story is set in England.
One of the good things about this story is that it feels pretty realistic about the position of women in society at that point in time.
Isabel of Camoys is expected to keep her estate running successfully after the death of her much despised husband. It is up to her to make sure that her lands produce enough to provide her share of taxes to the King (the absent Richard the Lionheart) and keep her tenants and dependents fed and housed.
And she’s supposed to immediately become subservient the moment that a man offers to marry her, because female independence was considered unwomanly. She’s not supposed to appear capable, even when she is.
She’s not supposed to want to keep her independence, whether her new husband is kind and considerate (and good in bed) or whether he is every bit as nasty a bastard (not literally, of course) as her late, unlamented lord.
Newly appointed Baron Ramon de Segrave is ordered to marry Isabel and fortify her lands. Thistle Keep is on the much contended Welsh border, and Richard needs a man there he can trust
Ramon’s wishes are not considered either, but he gains Isabel’s lands and title, and she becomes property. While it is not surprising that she wants to keep her independence, repeated kidnappings and guerrilla warfare fomented by her vile ex-brother-in-law make it clear to Isabel and everyone around her that it is not realistic in that time and place for her to remain independent.
She has to marry Ramon whether she likes it or not. Fortunately for her, Ramon is a much kinder and more intelligent man than her first husband. Also much more entertaining between the sheets. At least Ramon has grasped the concept that the marriage bed is a lot warmer if both parties are pleased during the proceedings.
In spite of a very rough start to their relationship, Ramon and Isabel do find a way to make a partnership of their marriage, and to finally admit that they love each other. Although neither of them planned on ever getting married, they eventually realize that their king has done them an excellent turn by forcing them together, even if he had no idea of the eventual outcome.
Escape Rating B: I did enjoy this by the end, but I highly recommend that you not read this book right after reading something with a significant feminist bent. While Isabel’s situation seems realistic for her time, it can be difficult to read the way that she is pretty much forced to give up her independence and expected to like it.
Reading this book definitely made me think. There is a trend in historical romance to make the heroine anachronistically independent in some way. While it makes her easier to identify with for 21st century readers, it isn’t right. On that other hand, it doesn’t lead to as much teeth-gritting.
This is a completely different thing from the argument about women’s independence, or women as soldiers, or any variation thereof, in medieval-type fantasy. Just because an author has used a medieval-type setting for their fantasy does not mean that they have to adopt all of that society’s terrible attitudes about women. After all, it is a fantasy-setting, the author can change the parameters to suit themselves as long as it remains internally consistent.
Dismounting soapbox now.
Isabel is living in a society where every person on every side is either telling her to “lie back and enjoy it” or reminding her that she is only chattel, and that she needs to find a man to command her armies and defend her lands, because she doesn’t have that capacity and her society doesn’t allow for her to. It’s often infuriating but it feels true.
I do wish, however, that Ramon’s magic cock hadn’t done quite so much of the convincing. He is far and away her best option, and it is logical that they join forces. Not just because he’s a nice (and handsome) man and will protect her, but also because he believes in his knightly vows and will protect and nurture her lands and her people.
As the Lady of Thistle Keep, she has to do what is best for her people, and Ramon is it, whatever Isabel’s personal opinion might have been.
Ramon’s opposition is evil slime, and he is made out to be evil slime at every turn. That he is also her ex-brother-in-law and plans to marry Isabel by rape and murder Ramon if necessary (and murder Isabel later once the land is secure) is just slimy icing on an already disgusting cake. He had no redeeming virtues whatsoever – he was a coward into the very bad bargain.
That Isabel hesitated to marry Ramon even a nanosecond after Sir Evil appeared was not intelligent or well-done on her part. If she was smart enough to keep her estate going so successfully alone, she should also have been smart enough to realize that the jig was up, whether she liked it or not.
In the end, love does conquer all, even the lady who never believed that she could fall under its spell.
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