The Rose and the Shield Mass Market Paperback – 17 Sep 2002
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In the sequel to The Lily and the Sword, Lady Rose, mistress of Somerford, reluctantly hires Viking warrior Gunnar Olafson and his mercenaries to protect her undefended lands, unaware that the dashing soldier is out to expose her for plotting against his own liege lord. Original.
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Rose is the very strong and independent mistress of Somerford and it's lands. Her people have been under attack and she needs help but is afraid to ask for it from her overlord Radulf (Lily and the Sword) because she feels that this would be a sign of weakness and he would take the land away from her. Rose has a understandable distrust for men and this is the reason for her not wanting to ask for help. She sends a messenger out requesting mercenaries to come and assist her with those that are harassing her people. The message is intercepted by Radulf and he believes that she is planning treason so he sends his best soldier Gunner to Somerford with the promise that if Gunner can prove the treason Gunner can have Somerford.
Gunner is tired of being a paid soldier and longs for home and hearth. He comes to Somerford determined to win the land and a place that he can call is own. What he does not plan on is the attraction that he feels for the mistress of Somerford and how that could effect his taking of the land. Soon he realizes that Rose is not the one with treason on their mind and that she is just as much in danger as he is. He becomes her shield and protects her from those that mean her harm.
This is a great story and the characters are very easy to like. Gunner and Rose are the perfect complement to each other. I found this story to be a fast read and I look forward to the next novel by the author.
The issues between Gunnar and Rose are trust and, for her, love. She is used to the men in her using her as a pawn and being completely untrustworthy. Plus, she learned to reject love from a co-dependent mother. Gunnar is tired of his mercenary life and looks forward to a home of his own; unfortunately for him, Rose isn't the triator he thinks she is, so he's not comfortable taking her home as his reward for foiling the plot against his lord, Radulf (The Lily & the Sword). Since he's playing a role and therefore lying to Rose about who he is and his purposes there, trust again is a big issue.
DO NOT READ THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE SPOILED. I have no problems with Gunnar or his interactions with Rose. The problem with the book is that Rose doesn't even admit to herself that she loves Gunnar until the next to the last page. And while she accepts that she should have been more trusting, she doesn't tell him until the last page. A couple of "I love you's" and the book is over. There's not enough there to make the reader feel the truth of Rose's change of heart.
Other than the abrupt, unsatisfying ending, the book held my attention well. Although I wasn't crazy about the dream device, everything else meshed together smoothly. The secondary romance for Gunnar's man Alfred was nice, and it was great to read more about characters from the first book and those featured in the third. Realistic details about distrust among the various peoples, too.
Rose knows that she has numerous enemies who covet her land and simply want her out of the way either through legal means of marriage or by treachery. She has rejected several proposals and has kept under control the betrayals through strong leadership and solid land management since her husband died last year. However, when Rose and Gunnar meet sparks fly that quickly turns towards love, but neither trusts the other leaving both vulnerable to her deadliest foes.
THE ROSE AND THE SHIELD is an exciting first decade after the Normandy Invasion romance that provides sub-genre fans with an intriguing look at the transformation through the eyes of a lead protagonists who has seen much of the destructive side of the change. The story line hooks the reader from the start because of Gunnar's unique perspective. Rose is a heroine though a bit too perfect in an age filled with turmoil yet the audience will enjoy this exciting sequel.
While Gunnar (oooh, yum!) and Rose are both engaging and likable characters, I was frustrated by how long it took for them to even have a one-on-one private conversation, let alone anything more romantic! Once they do get together passion swirls and the pace picks up, but then the end seems too quick and abrupt for my taste. It seemed like we went from distrust to love in, like two pages!
The story itself is good, if familiar (see Lady of Valor by Tina St John). Widow and Lady of the Manor trying to keep what's hers hires mercenaries not realizing that they come from her overlord, Radulf, who suspects her of treason. Rose does not go to her overlord for help because she is afraid of appearing weak. Responsibility and duty weight heavily on Rose and in those solitary moments at her solar window, she longs for someone to share her burdens.
Gunnar Olafson is the son of Radulf's armourer and is tired of the mercenary life. He wants land and a home he can call his own, and if Rose is found to be a traitor, Radulf will reward him with Somerford Manor. And so, these two have to decide whether they can trust one another, all the while they are attracted to each other. While sharing a bed, they refuse to share their innermost thoughts and certainly not their hearts. But when the true threat to Somerford is revealed, they have no choice but to trust one another to survive.
This is the second book from this author and while I enjoyed both, I prefer "Lily and the Sword" to this one. Looks like Ms Bennett has another book due out soon (she certainly cranks them out quick) and I will likely also check that one (Once He Loves) out as well.