Sunday 2 July 2023

The Warrior's Prize- And what a lovely win it was for me!

Good Morning!

It's now July and time for a different kind of post. For various reasons, I've not been posting book reviews on my blog here for some time, but it's definitely a time for change. 

I'd like to share a little bit of my last read -The Warrior's Prize by Jennifer C. Wilson - a friend and fellow author with Ocelot Press. 

It's a really lovely romance set in Border country between Scotland and England. Historically, some people - who were born in and lived in the border areas - often thought of themselves as neither Scottish nor English. [Though, perhaps some people from the area feel like that today, as well!] The landscape of the Borders could be very harsh in places making it difficult to scratch a living growing crops, since it didn't boast the same fertility as the Scottish Lowlands, or that of England's very green, lush and level southern farmlands. Tough times made tough people and life was not always peaceful. Neighbours could be pleasant and agreeable, or quite desperately awful! Border reiving was rife, the theft of livestock not an uncommon happening which generally prompted some form of retaliation. 

The Warrior's Prize gives a nicely rounded flavour of what life was like back in the Borders in 1498.

The Warrior's Prize by Jennifer C. Wilson, beginning in 1498, is a story which definitely rings true of the times. When a woman was an heiress, she was generally regarded as chattel, a mere commodity through which a father, or guardian, could make alliances - trade-offs of money, land or property. If the heiress was unmarried and in sole charge of successful lands and keep, then she was an even more important bargain to be acquired. This is the situation for Lady Avelina Gordon who, from the outset, is reluctantly aware of her worth as a bride. Any marriage, she fears, will affect her status in her own home. She is determined to remain the competent mistress of her people at her castle named Berradane,  yet dreads the complete upheaval a marriage may bring. 

Lady Avelina appears to her own people, neighbours, and visitors as a strong woman of independent mind, privately suppressing any insecurities about overcoming circumstances presented to her that are not under her control. James, the current king, a man she regards as a platonic friend (in as much as one can be friends with a king), orders her to marry his trusted warrior Sir Lachlan MacNair. Avelina knows she must ultimately marry but finds it galling that she's given no choice over who she will wed, even though Lachlan MacNair is a man she is actually drawn to, like no other man before him. Avelina fears that on arrival, and after a relatively immediate wedding, Lachlan will take over the running of her lands and will make all the operational decisions, leaving her bereft. Giving way to her natural inclinations is something she also resists very successfully - for a while! I liked the gradual development of changes to her attitude regarding her initially unwanted husband's role at Berradane. Their relationship post-wedding is perhaps a tad unusual but Avelina slowly realises the treasure she has acquired in Lachlan. 

Lachlan is indeed a warrior suited to Avelina's cautious approach. Not only does he bear the fortitude of the well-tested soldier, but he has just as much resolve as Avelina to not cave in to the inevitable tumble into a deep, abiding love. His fears that a loss of control will diminish his overall performance as a protector of people and lands seem insurmountable, leading him to maintain a strained relationship with Avelina. There is a likeable innocence to his staunch resolve to let their relationship develop in its own time. He quietly and steadfastly eases himself into the role of landowner and meets challenges that could be deadly with thought and careful planning. One of Lachlan's great strengths is his ability to reason and to think through all eventualities, which lead him to the correct conclusions. Acting on gut feeling isn't always a successful way forward for a warrior and Lachlan knows this only too well.  

Historically, it seems so many marriages during the middle ages were for dynastic and political supremacy and it must have taken more than a touch of Cupid's arrow for the relationships to become more than a mere duty. This lovely story highlights the possibilities that with patience and endurance, between two people who are virtual strangers, an initially strained relationship can develop into a harmonious, fulfilling and lasting love.

Yes, there is a baddie in the story, who is a thoroughly nasty specimen, but it is via his machinations that the author presents situations for both protagonists to confront their true feelings. 

I thoroughly recommend this heart-warming story to any readers who enjoy immersing themselves in an era fraught with dangers and dastardly dealings. 



Stirling Castle, 1498
Visiting court for the first time since her father's death, Lady Avelina Gordon finds herself drawn to the handsome warrior, Sir Lachlan MacNair. But as a woman who has seen too many of her friends lose everything for 'love', she keeps her heart guarded.

Castle Berradane, 1502
Lady Avelina is unceremoniously told to expect her new husband within the month. The man in question: Sir Lachlan.
Lachlan arrives in Berradane carrying his own secret, and a determination to control his heart. As attraction builds between the couple, they find themselves under attack and fearful of a traitor in their midst.
Can the teamwork they've shown in adversity so far pull them through one final test, and will they find the strength to risk their hearts, as well as their lives?

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