Ann Lawrence's second book, Lord of the Keep, from LoveSpell's Perfect Heroes series is a great medieval historical - quite different from the paranormal Virtual Heaven, her first book. The physical image conjured in my mind by the series title, Perfect Heroes, doesn't exactly match forty year old Gilles d'Argent, but the label fits him nonetheless. What a wonderful story this is with delightful characters and some unusual twists.
Gilles meets Emma, a talented weaver, when her uncle brings her before him claiming she has given away her virtue and therefore cost him the benefit of a marriage arranged for her. Emma refuses to name her lover, to whom she considers herself married because of the private vows of marriage they exchanged. Two years later, when Gilles rescues Emma and her baby, Angelique, from the attack of mad dogs, she comes back to his notice. He brings her into his household and makes her his private weaver. Of course, the lover she thought she married, and who subsequently abandoned her and their baby, is Sir William, a member of Gilles's household.
Although she is only a weaver, Emma is befriended by Sarah, wife of Gilles's close friend Roland and apparent housekeeper of Hawkwatch Keep. Although fascinated with Emma, Gilles is hesitant to take her as a wife, given her lowly station, or as a leman, her obvious dignity. He also fears rejection due to his advancing age and Emma's obvious appeal to the younger and more handsome men of the Keep. They cannot deny the feelings they have for each other, however, and become both friends and lovers. When Emma realizes the feelings she had for William cannot compare with the love she develops for Gilles, she agrees to become Gilles's leman. The jealousies that arise between Gilles and William make for some interesting scenes, and eventually lead to a crucial turning point for Gilles and Emma.
I was enchanted by this sweet story, by Gilles and Emma, Sarah and Roland, and other secondary characters, as well as the story as a whole. Even Sir William is a complex villain, who causes some complicated plot twists. I liked the fact that Gilles, a great warrior and Lord of the Keep, was nonetheless insecure in his appeal due as compared to younger men, while Emma never gave this fact the least thought. Lord of the Keep is a wonderful tale, which I strongly recommend. Ann Lawrence is obviously a new author to watch. Enjoy!