Signet, 2003 (2003)
Reviewed by Martina Bexte
opens, the young and impetuous lady Kiera is joyously flying through the darkening woods atop a fiery black stallion against the explicit orders of her harried father, who forbad her to take his prize horse out of the stables. When Kiera is attacked by an outlaw intent on stealing Obsidian and having his way with her, it's only older sister Elyn's well placed arrow that saves the day and Kiera's virtue. She vows to do anything for her older sister and Elyn holds Kiera to her promise, but doesn't collect until three years later when their father announces Elyn's betrothal to a neighbouring baron, Lord Kelan of Penbrooke.
lyn is angry that her father insists on marrying her off like a piece of property, especially since she's in love with another. She will honour her father's arrangement, yet wants one last night with her lover Brock. Elyn now collects on her sister's debt and proposes Kiera
for her during the wedding ceremony. Since their features are almost identical, none should be the wiser as long as Kiera remains heavily veiled, and then begs off the wedding feast with the excuse of illness. Kiera could further dupe Lord Penbrooke by drugging his wine with a sleeping draught. Once Elyn has bidden farewell to Brock she plans to sneak into the bridal chamber and assume her new role as wife. Kiera reluctantly agrees to her sister's wild plan; they made a pact and she is prepared to do the honourable thing. The wedding vows are spoken. However, the sleeping draught does not work quickly enough and Lord Kelan makes Kiera his wife in all ways.
lyn keeps the rendezvous with her lover, only to find out that Brock's love is a lie and he's marrying another. Furious at him and with herself (because she foolishly thought to run off with Brock rather than go back and assume her duties as Lady Penbrooke) Elyn decides to return home but she plunges to her death instead. With Elyn missing, Kiera fears the worst, including the wrath of her husband, whose suspicions rise by the hour. She realises she must tell Kelan how a simple deception spun out of control, or lose his love. But when Kelan's dying mother begs her new daughter-in-law to '
do nothing to thwart this marriage
', Kiera fears she will never be able to free herself from an ever growing web of lies.
isa Jackson spins an enjoyable, if familiar, tale of a marriage deception hatched between two headstrong sisters, a plan that should have been simple, yet runs amok from the moment it's planned and then continues to spiral out of control at every turn. Strong writing and enjoyable characters, particularly the women in the story, elevate this medieval tale. Kelan could have been a stronger character - he seemed too much the typical brooding and suspicious hero and his own past was never fully developed. But Kiera and Kelan do find a happy conclusion once he sets aside his initial anger over being tricked and realises that his rare love for Kiera is more important. Ms. Jackson leaves various loose character and plot strings dangling in
, ones she plans to continue in further books, that should make for equally engaging reading.
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