Widow Eleanor of Tallany Castle knows her people are broken by the taxes demanded by King John. So when she’s ordered to marry Hugh de Villiers, a knight loyal to the king, she’s furious—even if he is handsome! As gallant Hugh begins to heal the scars of Eleanor’s abusive first marriage, she’s even more determined to keep her secret: she is the outlaw the king wants to send to the gallows! (x)
This was really fun! It reminded me of Julie Garwood’s medievals, which is definitely a good thing. I loved the adventure and the romance equally in this one.
Eleanor is a strong heroine, both in spirit and strength, but she has her moments of weakness, too. Hugh is the perfect foil for her. He starts out so set in his ways as a knight, serving King John. He can’t understand why someone would steal from the king (especially anyone connected to his wife), but over time, he realizes that the system is imperfect. The bandits shouldn’t break the law, but they’ve been left with hardly any choice due to the king’s excessive taxes. He eventually realizes exactly how horrible John is, of course. I thought the way Oliver ultimately has Hugh make the decision to protect Eleanor was wonderful.
As an aside, I wrote a paper last semester on the fox in children’s literature, so reading Oliver’s version of Le Renard was really enjoyable, as well! My only real qualm with this novel was that there were too many exclamation points, but this is a debut. Overall, it’s a lovely tale she has woven within these pages.