By Jude Deveraux, 2000 reprint of 1980 release, Medieval Romance
Avon, $10.00, #0-380-81206-1
First in the Montgomery Annals series (link here for a list of all titles in the series)
Besides her famous Velvet quartet, there are two stand-alone, medieval novels by Jude Deveraux which I consider to be must reads (and must keeps as well) The Black Lyon and The Taming. These two books are the best I've read to strongly show a woman's patience and understanding in winning the love of a close-hearted husband. Heroes in both these stories are warrior knights who have each suffered loss and betrayal in their first marriages. And it is the wives from their second marriages who, with loving patience and sacrifice, gradually open their hearts and teach them to trust and love again.
In The Black Lyon we meet Ranulf de Warbrooke, the Earl of Malvoisin, who is the champion knight of King Edward I. He is dark, powerful, wealthy and, of course, incredibly handsome. At the tender age of 15, he was married to a woman, Isabelle, who only wanted him for the wealth and power that his earldom brought. Although she came to the marriage carrying the child of another man, Ranulf was so in awe of her that he worked day and night training to be a knight in order to please her.
However, Isabelle had no use for Ranulf, saying that his black looks revolted her; she continued her adulterous behavior after she gave birth to the other man's child, a daughter, whom Ranulf grew to love. When Isabelle lay dying from a fever, she professed her hatred for Ranulf and told him her greedy reasons for marrying him. Out of hatred and spite, Isabelle was determined to take away any shred of love that Ranulf had for anything. The cruel woman made sure that her little girl died of the fever along with her. Her hateful words and actions on her deathbed closed Ranulf's heart and made him even more determined to be the most powerful earl and strongest knight in England and he eventually does becoming The Black Lyon.
Sixteen years after the death of Isabelle, Ranulf meets Lyonene, the beautiful, seventeen year old daughter of a baron who named her for a lioness because of her mass of tawny hair and emerald eyes. They decide to marry after a whirlwind three-day courtship, but do not actually marry for another three weeks. It is during this waiting period, during which they are separated, that Ranulf has more than enough time to dwell on his decision to marry again. He recalls all too well the emotional pain inflicted on him by his first wife. Because of his reflections on Isabelle, he falls into a black mood, which he displays on his wedding day and wedding night. Lyonene is left to wonder where the Ranulf that she grew to love over those glorious three days went.
Ranulf accuses Lyonene of conspiring with a boy from her childhood and threatens to cast her aside. Lyonene is determined to save her marriage/ She disguises herself as a serf so that she can hide in Ranulf's entourage as he travels to Wales, where the king has sent him to thwart plans of a Welsh uprising. Lyonene discovers the truth of her husband's past and understands the hurt and mistrust he has suffered. She knows that mere words will not convince him of her sincerity. During a Welsh attack, Lyonene proves her love by her deeds, which nearly kill her. Her response to Ranulf when he asks why she acted as she had is a two-hanky moment. Ranulf finally appears to have come to his senses about his relationship with Lyonene and he vows to start their lives anew.
Of course, Jude Deveraux fans know that this is not the only trial by fire these two will face. Sure enough, amid the announcement of Lyonene's pregnancy, we learn that a jealous plot is being concocted to tear the two lovers apart. How their love triumphs will appeal to all lovers of romance.
The Black Lyon is a joy from start to finish. I especially loved the secondary characters - Berengaria, the friend Lyonene made at court; her younger brother Brett who is sent to foster at Ranulf's castle; Dacre, Ranulf's friend and comrade and especially Ranulf's seven knights, his "Black Guard." I loved how Jude Deveraux gave each of them his own unique personality. I love this book so much I am now on my second copy because I read the first one so much the spine split.
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