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Once He Loves
Sara Bennett
Avon
ISBN: 0060519703
April 2003
Historical Romance

Lady Briar Kenton has lived the last two years for revenge. Her father swore vengeance on Lord Radulf just before he killed himself. All the trouble started with the death of her stepmother, Anna. Her father believed it was Lord Radulf that ordered her murder, and when the King wouldn’t act, he became a traitor. That was when Lord Kenton was declared a traitor by the King and all his property was seized. His three daughters were left to manage on their own.

  The eldest, Jocelyn, and her husband, Odo, managed to get a place as a cook and stable hand to Lord Shelborne. Briar and her younger sister, Mary, get by performing. Briar sings and Mary plays the harp. Briar is singing this evening in Lord Shelborne’s hall. Jocelyn let it slip that Lord Radulf is expected this evening. Now Briar will have her vengeance. She has decided that the best way to do this will be to seduce Lord Radulf. Since everyone knows that Radulf is in love with his wife, Lily, this will be the perfect revenge. She will seduce Radulf and manage to get caught so that word will get back to his wife. Briar has managed to get a room for the evening in Lord Shelborne’s castle.

When Briar is on the small dais singing, she looks around the hall. She sees a man and knows that must be Radulf. She finishes her song and makes the man an offer, which he accepts. Briar is no innocent. She did not expect to enjoy this at all, but she does. The man tells her that she will be his. The next morning, there is a knock on the door. It turns out to be a mercenary, Sweyn. He tells the man that Lord Radulf has called for them and calls the man Ivo. What has Briar done! She has seduced the wrong man. Even though she knows he is the wrong man, they make love again. Ivo again tells her that they were meant for each other and he will have her.  

Ivo de Vessey has recognized Briar. He was sent as a squire to Lord Kenton. Briar was knocked down by a hound and received a scar. Ivo held her and soothed her and Briar followed him around for the entire time he was with the Kentons. He doesn’t let on to Briar that he knows who she is. He gave Briar his heart then and once again, she has managed to thaw it out. Ivo can sense that Briar has been hurt, just like him. Ivo vows to keep Briar safe. He knows how dangerous it is to be the child of a traitor. Briar now must try and find out who it was that killed her stepmother. 

Ivo did not have a happy childhood. His older brother, Miles, hates him. Even though Miles was the favored son of their father, he always hated Ivo and made his life miserable. Ivo was only happy when he was a squire with Lord Kenton. When his father died, Ivo was called back home. Miles managed to have Ivo stripped of his knighthood as well. He also cost the life of their sister. Anything that Ivo loves, Miles destroys. Ivo feels the guilt of his sister’s death and has never been able to get past it. He loves Briar and will do everything he can to win her. Briar and her sisters have had a hard time of it the last two years. They grew up privileged and had everything they wanted. When they were forced from their home, Briar took only her sword. Her father indulged her and had a sword made for her. Mary took her harp and Jocelyn took Odo. Briar has been hurt by everything that happened and only managed to survive by thinking of her vengeance. This is the only thing that has kept her going. She has accepted the responsibility of taking care of Mary. Briar covers her pain with her sharp tongue, and Ivo is forced to bear the brunt of it. 

This is a wonderful medieval tale, full of adventure and danger as Briar tries to discover who murdered her stepmother. It is full of betrayal, as Briar begins to learn new facts about her stepmother. With this story, we get to learn about the life of the poor as Briar, Mary and Jocelyn survive. This story is also filled with romance as Briar and Ivo begin to heal each other. This is definitely a story that I recommend.

Chere Gruver, August 2003

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