Crusader's Lady by Lynna Banning
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a recommended book if you like a good, realistic medieval romance with a good dose of adventure, and have an interest in the Crusades. Soraya is a likeable, industrious, wise, and loving heroine. Although initially Soraya vows to kill Marc for killing her uncle, She didn't hang onto her vow to kill Marc so long that it was annoying. Instead she forgave him when she came to know him as a person. He accidentally killed her uncle, and he was sorry for it, and that was made clear. I was glad that the whole book didn't consister of Soraya hating Marc and trying to kill him the whole time.
Soraya is dressed as a boy, and initially Marc doesn't catch onto her being female. But when he grabs her to pull her out of the way during an attack, it becomes very clear that she's a woman. Marc is an honorable man, so he doesn't spend the whole book trying to seduce Soraya and discard her, knowing that he has a betrothed waiting at home. I have read books with heroes who have no such scruples. Their love grows stronger as they suffer through countless dangers on their long trek back to Scotland. It was nice to see that when they come together, it is out of true love on both sides.
Marc is a battle-hardened, war-weary soldier in the Crusades army. He has seen horrible massacre and taken part out of a vow to follow his King, Richard the Lionheart during the seige of Acre where 2000 hostages were killed (some were Jews and Christians, not just Muslims). But he saw that this honorable man had ordered some unspeakable acts that even their enemies the Saracens might not have done and it killed something in him. Luckily Soraya comes along and gives him a reason to hope and to live again.
I liked Marc as a hero, but I have to say that Soraya impressed me much more. She was a very strong, caring, and resourceful person. She kept her commitments and did not give her love or trust easily. But when she did, she was steadfast. She stayed with Marc long past the point of it being to her benefit, even knowing that he would be returning a betrothed in Scotland, to a land where she had no ties, and would likely be disliked as a foreigner. Thankfully her steadfast love is rewarded, with a little help from Queen Eleanor.
The descriptions of the medieval towns were well done and authentic. You could see, smell, and hear what went on there. Danger lurked around every corner on their arduous journey, as Saladin sends assassin's after Soraya if she fails to deliver the message he has entrusted her to give to King Richard. The book begins in the Middle East and ends in Scotland, as Marc has been tasked with escorting his wine-sodden, lecherous, but at the same time devout monarch, King Richard back to England. After seeing Richard safely back to England. Marc will return back to his lands to take up his role as the new laird of his people, since his brother has died.
The descriptions of King Richard speak to me as realistic. He was known to be a very blood-thirsty warrior, and had a reputation for being at least bisexual if not gay. In this novel Marc takes measures to protect the young boy Soray from his monarch's attentions. I appreciated that King Richard was shown as a real life person, not a historical figure who has been lionized to be completely absent of faults. King Richard doesn't make their journey easy at all, and a significant part of the time is spent rescuing the monarch from scrape after scrape.
Queen Eleanor also makes an appearance. With any other historical fiction I have read, she comes off as a powerful, intelligent, and magnetic figure. This book was no different. The use of Queen Eleanor and King Richard as characters adds depth to this love story.
Although Marc does not have a Scottish name, he is half-Scot, so this book would appeal to lovers of scottish historical romances, since it shows a Scottish slice of life, when the couple finally make it to Scotland.
I enjoyed this book very much as a medieval historical romance about the Crusades.
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