I love this author's other works, so I was thrilled to get my hands on this trilogy. I got all three at once so I could be sure to read them straight through.
It's a good thing I did. You can tell right from the start that the characters really connect with you. There are three brothers, each with his own personality. The eldest, Duncan, is the knightly, responsible one. The middle brother is more of a hot-headed fighter, and the youngest is a God-fearing lad. All three can wield their swords with great skill, of course! Even the interactions between their parents are great.
This is Duncan's story. He loves to protect the weak and the helpless, and dislikes his father's more proper noble opinion of the "unwashed masses". It's therefore perhaps quite fitting that he instantly falls for the blond angel, Linet, a woman of the merchant class. She takes on a famous pirate captain and while she momentarily gets an advantage, in short order she is captive and Duncan is after her.
Not that she knows it, of course. Duncan has chosen to disguise himself as a gypsy - so throughout the story you have Linet putting Duncan down as a common peasant, claiming she is far above him. In reality, her mother was a commoner who abandoned her noble father as soon as his family disowned him. It's a long, long time before she finally starts to think of peasants as OK to talk to (or touch!) and reconcile herself with loving a common gypsy.
I love the writing style, the laugh out loud humor, and the great details inserted into the story. Linet is a woman who deals in fabrics, so much of her observations of the world are couched in the language of dyes, fabric types, weaving techniques and more. It makes for an interesting, multi-layered story.
I also loved the way the character interactions are described. They are very vibrant and real.
That all being said, both of these characters grated on me a bit. Sure, I like it that people have flaws and are not perfect. However, Duncan the knight apparently has 19 or 20 bastard kids wandering around the castle - but he can't really identify them. He just gathers them up randomly and tells stories to them. Where did the mothers go? All the kids were taken from their moms because a castle life is better than their pitiful commoner life? Or were the moms all in the castle too - just unmentioned - and having to move on to new men?
Then he runs into Linet who - while we can complain from a modern, PC point of view that she's very snooty - is simply behaving in the class system that time period had. So she holds herself above the common folk. This is 100% opposite his daily way of life. So he supports her ... why? Because she's buxom and beautiful? He obviously had at least 20 other women who cared for him. I suppose it might be less than 20 if some women didn't learn their lesson after the first time ;) But anyway, all these women were ones he liked enough to sleep with and spend time with. Now he wants to hang around this blonde who is diametrically opposed to his viewpoints, just because she needs help. I'm sure hundreds of other women in his neighborhood also needed help and were more akin to his outlook in life. It was just her blonde hair and porcelain skin that hooked him. That's a bit depressing for a man who claims to be a see-the-true-value type.
As far as Linet goes, as I mentioned, her attitudes are non-PC but are timeline correct so you can't fault her for that. However, what I *do* fault her for is her incessant inanity. She is portrayed as very intelligent, sharp, a shrewd negotiator who can always see the profit angle in a situation. However, from the moment she meets Gypsy-Boy, he constantly tries to save her - and explains clearly what he is doing and why - and she just says "no no no" even when it will very obviously put her into more serious danger. That doesn't make any sense. She would use him to her advantage even if it was to discard him later on. For her to risk her own life - repeatedly - just to be able to say no to him just didn't ring true for me.
There was one minor point that stood out to me - he put the ring on her middle finger, as that was the finger that led to the heart. However, all the research I've done on this period said it was the finger next to the pinkie (i.e. the one we use in modern times) that was the ring finger / heart finger. I wonder if the confusion is that they sometimes say the "third finger" - because they didn't count the thumb as a finger. If someone in modern times heard third finger and did count the thumb, they'd end up in the middle. In any case, if anybody knows otherwise please let me know, because I write books on romantic traditions and this is something I'm asked about often.
So to sum up - great read! Great details about fabrics! Great humor! But the two main characters are a bit too flawed for me to 100% connect with.