Genre: historical romance.
I have the paperback edition, with the read cover, and the green one is from the hardcover, and is a beautiful stepback cover in my book. I so love books with stepcovers.
When Garron of Kersey returns home from the king's service to claim his title as Baron Wareham, he's shocked to find Wareham Castle very nearly destroyed by a man called the Black Demon.
According to the last starving servants still clinging to life inside the castle walls, the Black Demon was looking for gold belonging to Garron's brother Arthur. Among his remaining servants is the enigmatic Merry, the bastard child of the castle's priest. Garron quickly realizes that she is much more than a servant: She reads and writes and makes lists, just as he does. Together they bring Wareham back to its former splendor.
But that is only the beginning. Did Arthur have a cache of gold? Who is the Black Demon? And the biggest question of all: Who is Merry?
It has been a while since I read an historical romance by Catherine Coulter, but I sure did enjoy it.
When Merry’s father, the Earl of Valcourt, died unexpectedly, her mother arrived the next day. Her mother, the Abbess Helen of Meizerling Abbey also brought a man with her, she wanted Merry to marry: Jason of Brennan. But Merry sensed the evil in the man, and refused. She had no doubts her mother could and would force her to obey, so she ran away. It is rumoured that her mother is a powerful witch, an evil witch, and Merry has no doubt about it all. Her mother sure does not look old enough to be her mother, with her long loose golden hair and alabaster skin, she looks more like her sister. Even though Merry has an unruly mass of bright red hair herself.
Caught in the act, she is taken away by Lord Halcon, one of Jason of Brennan’s men, who dresses her like a stable boy, and takes her with him. Merry does not know where to, as Jason himself is at Valcourt. Luckily, she is rescued by an unknown knight, and when he kills Halcon’s men, and Halcon flees the fight, she decides to follow him. She does not know if she can trust him, but she knows Wareham Castle.
With his brother Arthur dead, Garron is now the new Lord of Wareham. He has just left the service of the King, and is on his way home, for the first time in many years. His brother Arthur was not a pleasant sort of man, prone to rages and temper tantrums, and he threw him out of Wareham. Garron is looking forward to his homecoming, but instead, he finds Wareham in shambles. Most of his people have been murdered, and everything that could be destroyed, is destroyed. Only some old folks are left behind, slowly starving to death. Some villain, calling himself the Black Demon, was looking for silver coins Arthur stole from him, and he tore Wareham apart looking for them. And since Arthur died a few days earlier, no one could tell him where they are hidden, or if he even had them in his possession.
Garron has some food with him and his men, but not much. Still, he is able to feed the few people who remained. Merry also enters the keep, and manages to stay hidden. She quickly secures the help and trust of old Miggins, promising if she helps to keep her hidden among the castle folk, she will be able to rebuild it. Miggins agrees to let her try, and they tell Garron she was just the priest’s illegitimate daughter, but he did teach her to read and write, and the Lady Anne though her how to manage a household. And under Merry’s direction, soon the castle starts getting put back together. Garron and his man go hunt for food, and Merry organizes the labour, and what needs to be done first.
Garron does not trust Merry, he knows she is hiding things from him, but he sees how she has the trust of his people, and how under her leadership, the castle is put back together again. Trestle tables are being built, the hall is cleaned, and his people have hope again. There is life and laughter. For now, he will let the problem be, but when there is time, he will have the truth out of her.
Then the Kings’s Chancellor arrives, bringing mules with food and goods from the Queen, as they have heard from Wareham’s plight by some remaining soldiers who managed to escape alive. The goods are certainly welcome, but Garron knows it will cost him. The King has now heard of the silver, and he will want his Royal share of it. But first, they will have to find out who the Black Demon is, and where the silver is hidden. And he will need to find more people to live and work at Wareham. Skilled labourers, families and cattle. Of course he will need Merry’s help in picking them, and buying all the things the castle still needs.
When Garron finally does find out who Merry is, he wants to do the right thing, and bring her to the King, who now has the right to decide her faith. She is one of the richest heiresses in the country, and some lucky man will be her husband. Merry does not want to go to the King, she wants Garron as her husband, as he has come to know and like him. He is just and honest, and he cares for his people, just like her father did. And so she seduces him …
I enjoyed reading this book, it was funny, with characters I quickly came to like. It just had a nice feel about it all. The story was entertaining and fun, and Merry’s mother really is an evil witch. I am curious about her, and perhaps there will be more books. There is not really magic here, but I wonder if it is just the use of herbs and illusion Helen uses. She sure does hold a lot of sway over men with more than her beauty alone.
© 2012 Reviews by Aurian