~ About the Book ~
12th century England: Two men vie for the throne: King Stephen the usurper and young Duke Henry the rightful heir. Amid civil and private wars, alliances are forged, loyalties are betrayed, families are divided, and marriages are made.
For four years, Lady Annyn Bretanne has trained at arms with one end in mind—to avenge her brother’s murder as God has not deemed it worthy to do. Disguised as a squire, she sets off to exact revenge on a man known only by his surname, Wulfrith. But when she holds his fate in her hands, her will wavers and her heart whispers that her enemy may not be an enemy after all.
Baron Wulfrith, renowned trainer of knights, allows no women within his walls for the distraction they breed. What he never expects is that the impetuous young man sent to train under him is a woman who seeks his death—nor that her unveiling will test his faith and distract the warrior from his purpose.
~ Excerpt ~
Young men were everywhere, grunting and perspiring. Among them moved older men who shouted direction and demonstrated technique. However, the one who captured her gaze was a large figure engaged in hand-to-hand combat.
Silver hair bound at his nape, the back of his tunic dark with perspiration, Wulfrith lunged and dropped his young opponent with a clip to the jaw.
A shudder went through Annyn. The baron was not to be bested by a boy.
But I am a woman. And this woman will put him to ground—into the ground.
As the young man regained his feet, Wulfrith said something and showed a fist. The squire nodded and Wulfrith turned away.
The face Annyn had first seen four years past topped a body that looked even more powerful in simple garments. A moment later, those arresting grey-green eyes landed on her.
Breathe! She held his stare as he traversed the training field, secure in the knowledge gleaned by Rowan that Wulfrith had never met Braose. As for Annyn Bretanne, four years had changed her, and the one time they had met, her face had been crusted with mud. He would not recognize her. But would he see the woman beneath the man’s garments?
Continuing to hold her regard, he halted two paces to her left.
Her insides rattled. Was her nose large enough for a man? She flared it. Teeth too even? She seamed her lips. Shoulders too narrow? She pushed them back. Chest too—?
“Why do you wait?” Wulfrith demanded.
“My lord?” Annyn nearly choked on the title.
His nostrils flared. “Such musing will see you dead, Braose. I say again—”
“—dismount. Your training begins now.”
“But I have only just arrived.”
He moved so suddenly it was as if by sorcery he appeared at her side. Gripping her boot, he jerked her out of the saddle.
She landed on her back. As she fought for breath, she looked up at where he stood over her with legs spread. It was good she did not quickly refill her lungs, for the words to which she longed to give breath would surely prove her undoing.
At last catching air, she looked to Rowan. Though warning fell from him, there was struggle in his eyes that told of the effort he exerted to keep from setting upon Wulfrith. As for their escort, their mouths were still, but their eyes spoke as loudly as Rowan’s. Not with warning, but amusement.
“Gain your feet,” Wulfrith ordered.
She stumbled upright and snatched her cap from the ground. As she jammed it on her head, she turned. Though four years had put her closer to Wulfrith’s height, still a foot stretched between the top of her head and his.
Cunning and stealth, she reminded. What he did not see would give her revenge.
“Lesson one,” he said, “when spoken to, listen well.”
She tightened her throat muscles. “Aye, my lord.” Never her lord!
“Lesson two, never question me.”
“Aye, my lord.” Miscreant!
“Lesson three, act when told to act.”
I shall act, all right. “Aye, my lord.”
“Lesson four, keep your eyes on your opponent.”
“Aye, my lord.” Cur!
“Now get to the field.”
~ Review ~
This book is seriously difficult to put down once you’ve started! I first read this series a few years ago, but was recently inspired to read it again because (a) a friend has been reading them for the first time, and absolutely raving about them on Facebook; and (b) THERE’S GOING TO BE A BOOK #6! Aside from wanting to refresh my memory in time for the release of #6, I remember thinking they were a good read at the time, and I was curious as to whether they would compare to my memory.
Oh yeah. They do!
For starters, the series is grounded in a specific historical setting, rather than a fantasy-style Medieval England. And I certainly didn’t mind seeing Garr outwit the brash young Henry Plantagenet! Authentic medieval dialogue is something of a moot point considering English as we know it had not developed yet, but Tamara Leigh did a great job of giving an ‘olde English’ feel to the writing without making it taxing to the modern reader.
But the plot! Oh, I loved this plot—and the main characters! Yes, a woman impersonating a man and eschewing normal feminine pursuits is an overused medieval romance trope, but this novel is an example of how it can be done WELL. The fact is, women like Annyn DID exist, and given Annyn’s situation and determination to avenge her brother, I thought it was a very believable scenario, from its inception right through to the consequences. Every scene bristled with realistic tension—personal, physical, psychological, political, and/or romantic; and I loved those fantastic training scenes at Wulfen!
When it comes to the faith element, I think it needs to be said—although that should be obvious—that if you’re looking for Evangelical Christianity, you’re not going to find it in medieval fiction. I thought Tamara Leigh did a great job of portraying a faith that was neither overtly Catholic nor anachronistic. The few references to Garr’s practice of seeking out ‘professional women’ in the past were disappointing, particularly in light of what was otherwise a sincere faith, but the Church’s teaching on sexual mores at this time was…erroneous, to say the least, and as it seemed to be confined to his past, I opted to grimace and move on. There were many ways in which these characters were still growing in their faith, and their struggles with anger, vengeance, hatred, and forgiveness were the focus of this story, and well portrayed.
And finally, the romance: if you read reviews for this novel on Amazon or Goodreads etc, you will likely be very confused, because this novel is accused of being both TMI and lacking in the bedroom department. If you’re after explicit scenes, you’ll be disappointed. If you prefer romances that don’t acknowledge the physical side of marriage, you’ll also be disappointed. Personally, I quite like the middle ground! I also thought it was refreshing that it took time for Annyn and Garr to find each other attractive, and I was particularly relieved that Garr didn’t find himself strangely attracted to Annyn when she was pretending to be a squire. (Ugh! Just, no!)
Really, all I’m trying to say is: This was a jolly good read! I can’t wait to refresh my memory on the rest of the series.
Release date: 29 December 2013
Series: #1 Age of Faith
Publisher: Self published
~ Other Books in the Series ~
~ About the Author ~
In 1993, Tamara Leigh signed a 4-book contract with Bantam Books, and her first medieval romance, Warrior Bride, was released in 1994. Continuing to write for the general market, three more novels were published with HarperCollins and Dorchester and earned awards and became national best sellers.
In 2006, Tamara’s first inspirational contemporary romance, Stealing Adda, was released. In 2008, Perfecting Kate was optioned for a movie and Splitting Harriet won the prestigious ACFW Book of the Year award. The following year, Faking Grace was nominated for a RITA award. In 2011, Tamara wrapped up her Southern Discomfort series with the release of Restless in Carolina.
When not in the middle of being a wife, mother, and cookbook fiend, Tamara buries her nose in a good book—and her writer’s pen in ink. In 2012, she returned to the historical romance genre with Dreamspell, a medieval time travel romance. Shortly thereafter, she once more invited readers to join her in the middle ages with the Age of Faith series. Tamara’s #1 Bestsellers—Lady at Arms, Lady Of Eve, Lady Of Fire, and Lady Of Conquest—are the first of her medieval romances to be rewritten as clean reads.
Tamara lives near Nashville with her husband, sons, a Doberman who bares his teeth not only to threaten the UPS man but to smile, and a feisty Morkie who keeps her company during long writing stints.