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Bride of the Beast    by Sue-Ellen Welfonder order for
Bride of the Beast
by Sue-Ellen Welfonder
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Rashmi Srinivas

Sir Marmaduke, the valiant English knight from the delightful Devil in a Kilt, gets his own story in Sue-Ellen Welfonder's latest Scottish romance, Bride of the Beast. Lady Rhona is convinced that her friend, the twice widowed and sorely troubled Lady Caterine Keith of Dunlaidir Castle, needs a champion, a man who will not only unburden and protect her, but will also love her. Caterine, who's had enough of men (especially brutal Englishmen) and marriage, is determined to hold out against her latest unwanted English suitor without the help of any man, champion or otherwise. But Caterine's sister Linnet, in agreement with Rhona, sends her a knight, who is supposed to help her by pretending to be her husband.

Sir Marmaduke Strongbow, who will do anything for his best friend's wife Lady Linnet, agrees to champion Lady Caterine. But Marmaduke, whose most secret desire is to once again have a home and wife, offers Lady Caterine not just his martial skills and protection, but marriage, a true marriage, as well. Caterine is displeased and shocked - not by the terrible scars on the face of this one-eyed knight, not even by his marriage proposal, but by the fact that her sister sent an Englishman to be her champion! And she makes this crystal clear to him. On the surface Marmaduke accepts the reason behind Caterine's rejection, but in his heart of hearts, this once handsome knight attributes her rejection to his horribly scarred face.

Both Caterine and Marmaduke are plagued by their own demons, demons that stop them from seeing the truth about each other. Caterine resolves that while she may have no choice but to marry Marmaduke, she will not let her heart be involved. Marmaduke is determined to win this lady's love, even if he has to tempt her with erotic bedroom games to do so. Ms. Welfonder is adept at spinning a historical Scottish tale, filled with love, dripping with sensuality, and laced with deceit and danger. She has done it again with Bride of the Beast. While the story has a Beauty and the Beast theme, there is a twist to it. The beauty (Caterine) has deep emotional scars which stop her from loving, and the beast (Marmaduke) has his scars in plain view but a heart brimming with love.

How these two magnificent and imperfect characters overcome their fears forms the crux of the story. The author also reveals the harsh realities of medieval times when 'might is right' ruled. The plot is like countless others, but Ms. Welfonder's mastery of the characters and their conflicts makes this book stand out. There is also plenty of sensuality in the story (sometimes, too much so), which indeed is rapidly becoming one of this author's trademarks. Both existing fans and readers new to this author will be delighted with Bride of the Beast; charming and captivating!

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