Honor's Splendour by Julie Garwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Yay, another great book by Julie Garwood! :)
The story opens with Baron Duncan of Wexton stripped of his clothing, tied to a post, and left to freeze to death by Baron Louddon's men. But as soon as he's alone, Louddon's sister, Lady Madelyne, comes to his rescue and frees him. Ducan can't believe his luck - not that he's in any real danger and in need of her help because his "capture" was all part of a bigger plan -, but fate is just giving him what he came for. Duncan's sister, Adela, was raped by Louddon about a month ago, so he decided to kidnap Madelyn and force a confrontation with her brother, seeking revenge for what he's done. Having Madelyne unselfishly help him is beyond anything Duncan expected, and he falls hard and fast for her. Obviously, it takes some time until he realizes that.
As soon as Duncan is freed, he and his men attack Louddon's men and destroy his fortress. When the battle is over, Duncan is disappointed to find that Louddon is absent, since the coward Baron escaped to London soon after Duncan was "captured", thinking of establishing an alibi for Duncan's death. Knowing that Louddon will go after them, Duncan takes Madelyne as his "captive" to his home. And so it begins a most romantic story...
This book hooked me from the start, with one of the most beautiful opening scenes I've ever read. Oh, I've heard about the whole "feet warming" and such beforehand, as it's often mentioned as a memorable scene by many readers, but it didn't lessen the impact of it. It was exciting to actually read the whole scene and not only a snippet of it, and I was smiling and sighing like a ninny the whole time. Like Duncan, I fell in love with Madelyn there and then.
As I'm beginning to expect from Garwood's heroines, Madelyne was a bit ditzy and clumsy, but her kindness and courage won me over. Her inability to tell a lie was charming, sometimes funny and, in the end, saved the day. See, it pays to always tell the truth, especially if you tell it in a way that gets people a little confused. :)
Duncan was also what I've come to expect from a Garwood's hero: an arrogant but honorable warrior, protective, patient and completely devoted to Madelyne. He did force her to marry him, but it was for her protection - among other reasons, like his yet-unprofessed love for her and his desire do bed her ;) - and he never meant to hurt or harm her in any way.
Honor's Splendour was all about Duncan and Madelyne realizing they were made for each other and, as a bonus, making Louddon pay for his sins. I loved the way Ducan explained to himself why he felt compelled to sneak into Madelyne's bedroom to sleep with her when she was still his "captive", I smiled with his listing the reasons for marrying her, I sighed every time he sighed - just for show, of course - with one of her antics, I laughed with her attempts at learning self-defense... To sum things up, I adored Duncan and Madelyne.
The only thing that bothered me a bit in this book was, I felt it dragged a little after Duncan and Madelyne said ILY to each other. Things got too calm and quiet after that, and I couldn't wait to see how Duncan was going to "finish" Louddon for good. I trusted Duncan but I didn't trust King William, and his "special friendship" with Louddon could be a problem. In the end, everything worked out, and Duncan and Madelyne got their true HEA - after all, this is Romancelandia. :)
This was only my fourth book by Garwood and, based on what I've read so far, I can't wait to read more of her. Working my way through her backlist will keep me entertained for a long time, and I couldn't be happier.
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