by Linda Cook, historical (2001)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6870-0
Adeline of Caradoc is a hostage. Kept in a Norman household as an incentive for her Welsh cheftain father Caerdoc to behave himself, our heroine nonetheless is fortunate that the family taking her in is kind to her. One day, however, Willian Longchamp, some bishop of Ely and the King's chancellor, offers her freedom at a price: she is to spy on Simon of Taillebroc, a Norman knight who is assigned to keep an eye on her father. Simon has killed a priest, but instead of facing the usual capital punishment, he is given this reprieve instead. Longchamp wants the man dead, however, and it is up to Adeline to find him some concrete proof that Simon is evil. Or Adeline's father will go down.
Naturally, one look at Simon and both their hearts go pitter-patter. Put in a marriage of convenience, lots of political manoeuvres and counter-manoeuvres, and Silver Wind is a very busy book.
Okay, I'm reading this while simultaneously watching - or rather, suffering through this year's awfully tedious and boring Oscar (Steve Martin, SHUT THE HECK UP! and yo, J-Lo, what's with the free chest show, Ma'am? And Russell Crowe, egad, man, have you just discovered the joy - and horror - of home-made curling irons? And if that old man who won some screenplay honorary award thingie rambles on any longer, I swear I will fall into a coma. Where was I again?). But into the second half-hour of the Oscar, I gave up watching that tedious wank-the-old-buggers dullfest for this fun story. Who cares about how awards Gladiator win? Silver Wind anytime. Except when Benicio Del Toro or Joaquin Phoenix comes on the screen, that is.
I'm not sure about the history - this story is set in late 1190, when Richard Plantagenet is away on Crusades and messing with Saracean lil' boys and Wales is on the brink of open rebellion. The history plays an integral part of the story, and while it's not overpowering ala Shannon Drake, it moves the story along. Adeline's father may or may not be planning a rebellion. Simon may or may not be plotting her father's downfall regardless of whether Caerdoc is innocent. And Longchamp doesn't care who dies as long as he has fun.
Now, I like Adeline. She finds that she is as much a stranger in her home after return from Normandy as Simon, and how she tries to adjust to her father's coldness towards her is pretty poignant. There's this scene where she realizes that her father would put the safety of his new wife and sons above her, and how she deals with it through forced calm can make some heavy reading. As a woman, she has no value at all in the scheme of things, but she has an ally in Simon who sees her as someone worth cherishing.
I have more problems with Simon. He has so many secrets the author keeps throwing at my face, and after a while I expect a jolly good revelation session. Such as why he would kill a priest and not defend himself. But maybe that's all alluded in a prequel book, because guess what? I am not told much of Simon's secrets. That's it? I actually feel this urge to throw the book against the wall. I'm a nosey parker, but dang, if the author uses the Big Secrets device to keep Simon from loving Adeline freely, you can jolly bet I want to know every detail of the Big Secrets.
Likewise, the author doesn't actually succeed to creating a compelling relationship between Adeline and Simon. They fall in love so abruptly, it's a "That's it?" thing. It's not easy, I know, juggling politics and romance, but still, Linda Cook doesn't carry that off too well here. But there are some beautiful moments between Adeline and Simon in their quiet times that make everything almost forgiven. Almost.
The action, however, moves. I am intrigued, and I just have to know how the problems will be resolved in the end. And it is resolved in a simple yet exciting way that has me at the edge of my seat. There are Grand Sacrificial Gestures, Passionate Declarations of Love and Goodbye, and Unexpected Allies Coming To Aid A Besieged Hero moments that make me get so caught up in the action that I am quite disappointed to see it end so soon after. This author sure can write some great political conflict scenarios. I do feel Adeline's loss of her position in the scheme of things - pawn or Cheftain's daughter? - and I do admire her determination to control her own destiny. She does some stupid things, but that's okay - I don't think she can't carry out any wiser alternatives in her circumstances.
Silver Wind falters slightly as a romance, but as a story, just a story of great adventures and some romance in a turbulent era, it's a pretty good one.
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