on 26 February 2011
Dena is a young Saxon noblewoman, come to live with her uncle Edwulf after her father, his estranged brother, dies. She doesn't fit in very well at her uncle's manor; both he and his wife Ethelin have aspirations of grandeur and are 11th century social climbers, so where in her former home, Dena would have felt at ease with the farmers and servants tending her father's house, here, she is forbidden to fraternize with those "beneath her station." At the present, Edwulf is away, helping King Edward guard his shores from the attacking Norwegians. With the estate left relatively unprotected, Gwylan, the Welsh warrior whose lands Edwulf had confiscated, decides to take back his property. In the confusion of abandoning the manor to take refuge at a neighboring lord's castle, Dena is left behind, only to be captured by the attacking Welsh. She is saved by Rhodri ap Hwyel, a young man who obviously has some relationship with Gwylan, and also has no love of the Saxons, having been sent as a hostage to Edward's court and there abandoned by his relatives to the Saxons' cruelty. Laid low by poisoned ale left behind just for that purpose, he and his men are tended by the girl and when they ride out, he takes him with her. On the journey, as if decreed by Fate, the two young people realize they are falling in love.
When they are attacked by a party of Lord Baldric's men, Rhodri has a chance to escape but his fear for Dena causes him to be captured. At the Lord's castle, Dena comes to believe that Wybert, her uncle's steward, purposely abandoned her to divert the Welsh in order to give his men time to get away. Discovering that Gwylan is just as devious as both Wybert and her uncle in sacrificing those they love to gain a victory, she attempts to save Rhodri's life by convincing the others he's more valuable as a hostage than a corpse. When Rhodri sees a chance to escape and takes it, he's overcome by Wybert who orders him killed, and for her obvious love of one of the enemy, Dena is carried away to a hermitage in the forest while Wybert himself lights the wood piled around the stake to which Rhodri is chained...
MY OPINION: Once I started this book, I hated to put it down to get to sleep, in fact, I think I actually fell asleep while reading it. Not that it was dull, far from it, but because I stayed up until 5:00 AM to finish it! There's so much to say about Hostage of the Heart but I don't have that much space. Like Linda Acaster's other historical tales, the research she's taken with the story shines through. We've had so many stories about the Normans' treatment of the Saxons but very few about the Saxons' treatment of the Welsh or any other of the peoples inhabiting England in the 11th century. It's a view not seen very often and this is an entertaining story pointing that out. I'd like to have learned more about Rhodri's background and the time he spent at the English court, because the few bits of explanation were merely tantalizing. There's probably enough speculation there for another novel! I also like that the author includes a epilogue telling what happened to the characters in later life. All in all, this is a lovely story and one everyone who reads it should enjoy.
on 13 October 2010
As a man, this is not the sort of novel I would normally pick up. But, having read Linda's other books, I knew what a good writer she is and was therefore prepared to give this a go.
Though clearly intended for the women's market, this is a love story with so much more than mere romance going on right from the start. It is no surprise to me that the novel is fast paced, full of tension, both emotional and sexual, and tells a great story. The research has been done thoroughly so that the reader is easily lost in the medieval world of the Welsh border country around the time of the Battle of Hastings, when so much was happening.
The sense of threat felt by the heroine, Dena, is palpable and her confusion, heightened by her imaginings combined with misinformation, is always understandable. She is a courageous woman, whose faults arise from her upbringing and circumstances. Her emotions are portrayed with great subtlety and flair so that it is easy to empathise with her as one injustice is piled on another and she faces doubt and danger in a world that is rapidly falling apart around her.
The sexual tension between her and the hero, Rhodri, is very real as she journeys through fear, despair, loathing, terror, treachery and humiliation on the road to love. The passion is wonderfully expressed through the understated intimacy experienced by the lovers on their ride to self discovery.
Surrounded by lies and the politics of the age, Dena is forced to grow up very quickly as she suffers kidnap, betrayal, the blackening of her name, the threat of rape and death.
Rhodri, a fighting man as much as he is a lover, will find a place in the hearts of women readers with his strength, recklessness, courage and sheer male magnetism. Those who enjoy historical romance will find this book easy to pick up and difficult to put down.