The Marriage Bed has been in my "to be read" shelf for some time now. I kept avoiding it because I could not find much romance in the book's synopsis. The hero is a monk, living in an abbey, and even when forced into marriage by the king, wants to remain celibate. Okayyyy - that certainly sounded like a boring premise for a romance. But, I went on the favorable recommendations of many reviewers and took a dive. Was I knocked off my feet! It was "full steam ahead" from the first pages and I knew I was reading a great romantic tale.
Richard, the hero, was highly appealing despite his morose thoughts. Although we see Richard in the abbey, he never appears monkish. Oh - he wants to be a monk but he struggles daily - possibly even hourly - with lust. He's a very lusty guy, shut away in an abbey, attempting to rid himself of this blight on his soul. And the abbey has done nothing to tame his domineering personality
Isabel is the only heir to a large keep, Dornei, and her father has just died. She is betrothed to an heir of another large keep and the marriage has been arranged to align these two strong properties into one. In the opening pages, Isabel is running from Dornei to the abbey for protection. Although she is betrothed, there is more than one man who wants to lay claim to Isabel and her inheritance. The abbey allows Isabel sanctuary and sends for her betrothed only to be notified that he has died. The second son also is dead, leaving the third son as heir and the newly proclaimed future husband to Isabel. That third son is Richard. Isabel is thrilled because she has loved Richard since she was a young girl and never wanted to marry his brother. She has prayed for Richard to be her husband and has only dreamed of such a union. Now it is happening and she cannot hide her immense joy over the union.
Richard is a resident of that abbey Isabel flees to for protection. Soon after her arrival, he is notified of the death of his two older brothers and informed that he is to marry Isabel. Richard is furious and refuses to marry her. But the king's wishes for this marriage win out and Richard goes fuming into his own wedding. He believes Isabel is a spoiled young lady who has gotten her way and resents her greatly. He exhibits no feelings towards Isabel and refuses to have anything to do with her. As they ride off towards Dornei, now man and wife, Isabel remains ecstatic with her marriage and Richard only grows angrier over the union. . As soon as Richard and Isabel reach Dornei, he is immediately about the business of being lord. He is very efficient as he attends to his new duties - with the exception of the marriage bed. That is something he just doesn't want to face - yet.
The Marriage Bed is quite an unusual romance in several aspects:
- The vast majority of the story occurs over just a few days.
- There is sufficient cause behind Richard's angst to cause his actions seeking absolution. His hidden secret is not the usual unbelievable childhood with a cruel, abusive father or mother.
- Although this story occurs over just a few days, there is a tremendous amount of growth for both the hero and heroine as they deal with the truth and uncover the secrets.
- The heroine wants the marriage bed more than hero but don't let that little fact influence your choice to read this book. This is one very virile hero.
- The sincere concerns about morality play a huge part in the undercurrent of the story.
- The hero and heroine have known each other well since childhood.
- This hero was a very humble man - so much so that it made him a much stronger individual.
- Religion is a significant part of this story. Even the two experienced, strong knights who come to help guard Dornei spend time kneeling in prayer. Religion is given the proper place it truly occupied in this time in history. It is not harsh but seen as a means of desired stamina.
This book does not contain the overused plot line of a misunderstanding. The dialogue between the leads is honest although hurtful at times. They don't throw ugly words at one another. The hero may desire celibacy in the beginning but this ends up being quite a sensual book. The sensual rating is 4.25 out of 5.0 (See More About Me for rating guidelines). I loved The Marriage Bed and highly recommend it. It is only my second Dain book and I will now eagerly read more of her backlist.