Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Enchanted by Elizabeth Lowell

My favourite historical romance. Set in northern England in the years following the Norman invasion (or was it just after the first crusade). Ariane and Simon have to marry for political reasons and this is the story of how they make their marriage work.

I actually think this novel is perfect but here are some issues for other readers to be aware of;

the hero calls the heroine by a nick-name throughout most of the story; there is a lot of flowery clap-trap mysticism; the heroine has been raped repeatedly by a knight at her father’s court before the story starts and she uses the knowledge gained to seduce her husband; the hero performs oral on the heroine when she is unconscious; the heroine plays a harp to convey her emotions; the hero and his brother discuss each other’s marital relations; the hero is not fussed about his wife’s rape; the heroine relates her rape scene in public in front of an audience of mainly males; there is a high smut factor throughout the novel.

This is a novel where the (pretend) politics of the time are a major factor in the romance. Simon has no issues that affect the plot other than his rock-solid loyalty to his Lord who is in fact his older brother Dominic. Dominic is determined that none of the neighbouring nobility, the Norman king or Ariane’s noble father will have a reason to start a local war. And all the major characters behaviour in this story is constrained by that important fact. In order that another couple (from a previous novel) who are in love may marry, Ariane agrees to wed Simon. Despite her past experiences she agrees to fulfil her conjugal duty with Simon but he’s too nice to do that with an unwilling woman. So basically it’s story about how their relationship builds. I can’t remember all the details but first Ariane saves Simon from being killed by raiders but is seriously injured. And Simon is essentially her carer while she recovers. So Ariane falls in love. Simon is happy once Ariane makes love to him but he cannot commit to love because last time he became besotted by a woman his brother Dominic almost lost his life when the woman’s husband found out about the affair. And Simon’s bond with his brother goes deep.

And then the rapist turns up to taunt the happy couple. The trouble was Ariane’s noble baron father did not believe her rape claim. Who gets raped for a whole night he presumably thought. So Simon has 2 versions of an event that occurred before he met his wife. He thinks that maybe Ariane loved this knight (who behaves like a pussy) before she knew she would be sent to England to be married to a stranger. Also he is reluctant to make a fuss because if he killed the rapist knight who arrived as the emissary of Ariane’s father then that would be a reason to start a war and he would be breaking his oath of loyalty to his brother. Simon cares for Ariane as she is now, to him the rape is irrelevent. Unfortunately men are from Mars and women are from Venus. And Ariane is not having it that the rapist actually boasts about her night of pain (he drugged her btw) So Ariane asks a trusted local mystic to essentially put her under hypnosis because she wants Simon to know the truth of what happened. This happens in the big hall of Simon’s castle while loads of knights are feasting. Well, when a hypnotised Ariane recounts in detail her ordeal of that night, the rapist gets hysterical (presumably because he’s embarrassed) and lunges for Ariane with his dagger. Simon gets to him first and the rapist is history. Oops. Because the public shaming of his wife impugnes his own honour presumably.

And then Ariane’s dowry disappears. And her noble father turns up expecting to see his daughter married to someone else other than Simon and surrounded by riches. And his esteemed emissary is dead too. He’s got a good reason to start a war now!

The resolution of where the dowry is and who finds it and what happens is all wonderfully tied up in the mysticism of the story which totally works because it has always been an integral part of the novel. Basically Ariane becomes trapped in a magic kingdom when she goes to fetch the dowry and the only way Simon can save Ariane is to declare his love for her. Something like that. Of course Ariane’s noble father goes back to France a disappointed man. I had no trouble in believing in the couple’s HEA.

There is no comparison of this novel with Lover Awakened. Enchanted is more tightly constructed, has coherent continuous plot-lines, minimal padding and the hero and heroine spend loads of time together. It also has subtle layers to the plot. Although the pacing is somewhat uneven. But who am I to criticise the supremely talented author. And in the end Simon and Ariane even get their own castle and home. They do not live in a commune like the dumbass BDB. Unfortunately even the author of Enchanted has given up writing this kind of romance. Such a shame.

I actually like this novel better than All Through The Night by Connie Brockway (my other favourite historical). Mainly because the heroine Ariane isn’t as manic as Anne. (nor is she ‘sassy’ or fuckin’ ‘kick-ass’) nor do Ariane and Simon have to endure poverty in order to gain their HEA. Although Jack Seward is a better hero than Simon.(They’re both blond by the way)

Genre; historical romance; movie rating 15; explicit sex, female gets knifed, use of swords, mysticism, female rape, hypnotism.

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