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At Her Service    by Shari Anton order for
At Her Service
by Shari Anton
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Rashmi Srinivas

Lady Joanna, recent widow of the lord of Lynwood Manor, is at her wits end as the trio of thieves terrorizing her little hamlet grows increasingly bolder and more violent. Refusing to marry again, and unable to defend her people with a garrison severely depleted by a recent bout of plague, Joanna takes the bold but desperate decision to hire a mercenary to bring the criminals to justice. But she never expected anyone like Logan Grimm, a man whose fearsome reputation conceals a caring heart.

At loose ends thanks to an injured leg, Logan Grimm is available, but not fully inclined to take on the responsibility. But stunned by Joanna's beauty and impressed by her forthrightness, he agrees to a job that rapidly proves harder than it first seemed. After days of fruitless labor, Logan becomes increasingly suspicious that a villager is involved in the shady affair, even as the people themselves (and more particularly their gentle lady) worm their way into his violence-hardened heart. The passion between Logan and Joanna is as undeniable as the difference between their stations, but love has a powerful way of conquering all.

Shari Anton populates her novel with very interesting characters and with an engrossing, close-up look at day-to-day life in medieval times. Though Logan makes no excuse for his violent, mercenary ways, Anton skillfully and plausibly details his gradual thawing into a man who falls in love despite his better judgment. Joanna embodies the powerlessness of women - regarded as chattels by men - in that era. Her courageous decisions and determined actions cannot help but win over the reader's admiration. How passion and romance blooms between these two leads makes the story spellbinding.

In At Her Service, Shari Anton brings out the harshness of day to day life, the ongoing violence and the way justice is meted out instantly and severely in medieval times, without excusing or condoning these realities. Rather, she weaves them into the story, making it feel completely natural.

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