The Truelove Bride
by Shana Abé, historical (1999)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58054-X

The Truelove Bride begins with Lady Avalon d'Farouché, branded a witch because of her psychic abilities (she could read people's emotions and bond with animals), gratefully accepted a summon from her guardian and relative to return to her home in Scotland. Lady Avalon was weary of her powers, being raised all her life to be the answer to a hundred-year curse of the Kincardine clan. Her parents and household had been killed by Picts years before, and the Kincardine had raised her until she was a teenager. She had been trained to be a reluctant warrior woman under the strict eyes of her guardian. As a result, she, in her defiance, had denied the existence of the curse. Now, back in Scotland, all she wanted was to join a nunnery and never be a pawn to other's whims again. However, her cousin and guardian Bryce planned to wed her to a man in order to gain her inheritance.

Our hero, Marcus Kincardine, was the son of Lady Avalon's cold guardian. He, too, had been damaged by his father's seemingly uncaring ways and had been raised to be Lady Avalon's bridegroom. He and Avalon had been betrothed since childhood before he left for the Crusades. He, however, believed in the curse. When he heard Avalon was to marry another, needless to say he wasn't exactly ecstatic.

Avalon planned to escape, but before she could, guess who, in the grand tradition of Scottish courtship, kidnapped her. And boy, she wasn't too pleased either. Sure, Marcus was a good man, but oh, Avalon was so tired of being helpless, being wanted because she was this answer to a dumb Curse. What was a lady to do?

On Marcus' part, it was love at first sight. Oh, how precious!

Avalon wanted out, but she also found, to her dismay, that she was getting more and more attached to Marcus and his people. Soon she would have to choose between fighting and defying her ghosts of the past or embracing the frightening, unpredictable future. Meanwhile, she had to avenge her parents' death. Marcus' increasingly irresistible courtship only added to her dilemma. What was a lady to do?

If this book is a blank canvas, the author had lovingly painted lovely hues of vivid, vibrant colors. The language flows easily like a river, clear and clean, in a style akin to the storytelling skills of the medieval bards. True sometimes Ms Abé went overboard (heart of hearts is one jarring, overblown phrase), but it was easy to forgive her because the story is just so fun.

Marcus is a wonderful hero. There are times when he veered to close to being a modern day man stuck in 1159, but he had this dangerous edge in him that made him irresistibly compelling. Marcus was passionate, possessive, and yes, he would kill to protect the ones he loved. A true medieval warrior (although Robin Hood and Ivanhoe are still my all-time favorite medieval heroes).

As an aside, Shana Abé is an author who gets better with each book. Her debut, A Rose In Winter is flat and uninteresting, while her follow-up The Promise of Rain is good. Now she gives me this. At the rate she's going, I just cannot wait for her next book!

Rating: 86

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