Review: Married to Her Enemy by Jenni Fletcher

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Married to Her Enemy
JENNI FLETCHER
December 20, 2016
(print $6.50, ebook available Jan 1, $4.99)

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In a land torn apart by war and hate, two people are drawn together by an undeniable attraction…

In Married to Her Enemy, Jenni Fletcher’s absolutely fantastic debut novel, a Norman warrior and a Saxon noblewoman meet as deadly adversaries.  Aediva, our heroine, has plenty of reasons to hate the Normans: they took her homeland, they made outlaws of her people, and they murdered her beloved father.  When a band of their soldiers is sighted making its way toward her village, she knows she has only one choice: she must fight.

When the soldiers arrive, Aediva attacks the first one she sees: a giant Dane-turned-Norman called Svend du Danemark.  Svend, despite his stature and Norman allegiance, is kind to the beautiful and very feist Aediva, responding to her attempt to stab him to death with some ninja-style disarmament skills and only a bit of annoyance.  In classic romance fashion, Svend and Aediva’s tussle results in physical closeness that, despite the charged situation, ignites desire in them both.  *Elinor fans self with book.*

The story that follows this wonderful scene is a classic case of mistaken identity, in which Svend confuses Aediva for her sister, Cilla, whom King William has ordered him to capture.  Aediva continues the charade in an effort to protect her sister, and so off she goes as the hostage/guest of a very handsome, blue-eyed knight.  In the course of their travels the two face illness, rain storms, armed rebels, and a whole host of misunderstandings, arriving to their destination very much in love but still separated by past wounds and hidden truths.  Svend’s discovery of Aediva’s true identity almost destroys their chance at happiness, but a forced marriage and the eventual confession of their love for one another ultimately brings them together for good.  Hurrah for happy endings!

As you’ve surely already guess, I absolutely adored this book.  It’s a funny, poignant, profoundly romantic story set in a world about which I’ve always been very curious (I mean, who doesn’t want to know everything about the aftermath of the Norman invasion?!).  The historical details make that world come alive, as does Fletcher’s clear, precise prose.  I was instantly invested in the burgeoning affections of Aediva and Svend, and deeply moved by the pain they both felt after years of loss and struggle.  Their chemistry is off the charts, and the slow burn of their desire for each other was hugely appealing.   You really come to hope and worry for the hero and heroine and you’re overjoyed when they finally get together.  As a romance reader, there’s nothing I love more than that!

Another thing I love?  That I don’t hate anyone in this book!  (Well, except maybe the terrible King William, who’s referenced here and there.)  Instead, almost all the characters are surprisingly admirable, and may of them are even endearing.  Aediva and Svend are noble, reliable, and courageous, but not so much so they we can’t see them as real people.  The supporting cast is clever and caring, and even the conniving Earl FitzOsbern seems redeemable in his own way.  I was really interested in learning more about Aediva’s sister, Cilla, especially after we discover that (gasp!) she had a secret romance with a Norman nobleman!  (Pssst, Jenni: I really, really hope their story will become a book of its own!)

I would recommend this book to…well, basically everyone, but especially to readers who care more about the story and the characters than explicit sex scenes.  Fletcher does a lot with anticipation and building tension, and the sex scenes are definitely sexy, but if you’re the kind of person who wants graphic consummation this might not be the book for you.  I would also recommend this to lovers of historical romance, as the book is deeply steeped in period details.  I already want to read it again just so I can relish them!

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Also, did you know? We’re giving away a free copy of Married to Her Enemy, as well as FIVE other new releases from Harlequin!! Enter our giveaway here!!

Review: This Love by Lea Darragh

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Lea Darragh
This Love
Released September 19, 2016
(ebook: $2.40)

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Lea Darragh’s “This Love” is a wonderful story of hope and renewal in the aftermath of terrible loss. When her fiance, Ethan, dies tragically in a crash crash on their wedding day, Emmy (short for Emerson) is broken-hearted. In search of peace and healing (and to escape her handsy brother-in-law), Emmy moves from the big city of Melbourne to a coastal town called Cobbler’s Cove. There she slowly regains her strength and determination to live without Ethan. She begins to put her life back together, renting a cottage and taking an interior design job for a restaurant. She develops close friendships with the restaurant’s owners, Aubrey and Finn; the darkest of her days seem to be behind her. But no one can escape the past, and Emmy’s catches up with her in the form of a famous chef and friend of Finn’s who’s hired to draw patrons to the restaurant. In a cruel twist, Emmy discovers that the chef Jack Archer, the same man who was driving the other car in the accident that took Ethan’s life. Emmy and Jack are forced to confront their pain head on, and along with it, their attraction for each other. Eventually, the loss that could have been an obstacle that tore them apart became a source of profound connection between them, and their love flourishes, offering them both a second chance at a happy life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Darragh’s prose is really wonderful, especially compared to many recent books that have a feeling of being churned out in a rush. It flows well and has a kind of lyrical, literary quality that one doesn’t often find in genre fiction. Her descriptions of the characters’ experience of grief and guilt is beautifully done and draw the reader into the story with integrity and sensitivity. The characters are well developed and likable, and, despite the painful circumstances, the book is full of hope and the possibilities of life. I was especially impressed with scenes like the one where Emmy and Jack confront one another for the first time. The emotions seem entirely believable, and the characters are vulnerable and compelling. When they finally fall in love the reader is so happy to see them happy. This is how I want to feel at the end of a romance novel, but I often don’t. Only the best romances produce this kind of feeling. Darragh’s romances is definitely one of the best.

I would recommend this book to most romance readers, especially those who are invested in the interior lives and emotions of the characters and who care about the quality of prose. In general, lovers of contemporary and inspirational (though no necessarily religious) romances should be big fans of this book.