Title: By Arrangement
Author: Madeline Hunter
Review number: 29
Genre: Medieval romance
Stand alone/series: stand alone
Summary: Outraged by her unwilling betrothal to a common merchant and infatuated with a handsome knight of the royal court, medieval Lady Christiana Fitzwaryn pleads with her fianc? to end this misalliance arranged by King Edward of England. For personal and political reasons of his own, David de Abyndon refuses to renounce the marriage and begins a gentle but resolute seduction of his innocent bride. As Christiana awakens to the painful realities of her first love and becomes a part of David’s London world, she learns to cherish the husband she first despised. David tries to shield her from his old enemies and a mysterious French familial connection as he secretly assists King Edward in planning an invasion of France. This first novel in a planned trilogy intertwines the difficulties of David and Christiana’s marriage with a subplot that contains both political and personal peril as well as a lively cast of secondary characters. Just enough historical detail of 14th-century England enhances a love story that culminates in the sacking of a French city and the revelation of David’s true identity.
Why did I read the book: good reviews and I wanted to try a new author to me.
By Arrangement is a romance set in medieval times and it’s the story of Lady Christiana Fitzwaryn and David de Abyndon, a merchant from the City of London. She is a young woman who is caught in bed with the man she believes herself in love with and as a ward to the King, is immediately forced to get married to avoid ruin. Her husband to be is David, who has dealings with the Court which are not very clear to begin with but basically he agrees to marry her in exchange of some commercial rights which he had to pay the King for. And since the King could not afford to tell anyone where the money was coming from , he included Christiana in the bargain , you know, the killing two rabbits with one stone
Now Christiana is furious. First, because she loves the man who compromised her and in all her innocence and naivety believes he will come around and marry her and second because as a lady, marrying a merchant is a step-down in the celebrity scale. But David, once he is set on something, will not let go and he wants Christiana. Just like that. And so they fight, they make up, the get married, there is a stupid Big Misunderstanding to temper with their relationship , she gets caught up in his mysterious dealings, he saves her. The end. You can see where I am going here.
I wanted to like this book , I really did. The writing is good, the historical background well researched and interesting with the 100 years war between France and England looming in the horizon and the interesting details about the merchants and guilds of London in Medieval times but given that a romance novel is essentially about the Hero and the Heroine and I could not stomach either of them, I guess it is not a surprise that after a few days, the more I think about it, the less I like it.
I was never too comfortable about the Hero, David, but I think that was the author’s intention . David is not one of those honourable heroes that would never do anything wrong in their lives – most of what he says to Christiana are lies and even though his love for her keeps him from turning into a veritable villain, there is still enough darkness in him to make him a complex character and it is in facing his lies and the reasons behind them that Christiana makes the jump from naïve teenager to woman – David in the end, thinks to himself – He has loved the girl, but he would worship the woman. Still, because I (or Christiana) never had a complete knowledge of what his was up to until the very end, we could not trust him, thus keeping me from falling in love with the story.
And that is as nice as I can be about my experience whilst reading the book. This is what I really want to say:
The hero is a jerk. There, I said it. I understand that the author probably wanted to show that darkness is possible in romance heroes and I am all for it. I really am, I like dark, tortured, not all black and white heroes, – but when a hero uses sex as weapon to subjugate the heroine, when his lies permeate the whole story until the very last chapter, when he is a condescending SOB with a Machiavellian personality and even his inner dialogue is shrouded in mystery even to the reader, when we don’t know what really moves him – well, then, this is when I draw a line. Especially when some of his last thoughts in the book, right there when the story is near its end, he considers killing his brother in law, who is his wife most adored brother, for a profitable gain? Nope, this is not what I want to read in my romance novels: I can take broody, crude, whoremonger, dark, and tormented. I can not take David de Abyndon.
I hate writing negative reviews but not as much as I hate wasting my precious time with books I do not like. Still, I read very positive reviews around romanceland – so maybe it is just me.
Notable quotes/Parts: This is going the be notable not because it’s good but because it’s bad: David throughout the book kept calling Christiana, “girl”, or “my girl” in a very condescending tone which did my head in.
Additional Thoughts: Nothing to add.
Verdict: I think there are much better medieval romance novels out there.
Rating: 4 Bad, but not without some merit, namely the writing.
Reading next: Sunshine by Robin Mckinley.