THE CONQUEROR by Shari Anton
Harlequin Historical #507, May 2000
Bernard Fitzgibbons is home from the Crusades, back to claim his reward. Before he had left, he'd been promised land, and the hand of Lady Claire Setton in marriage. Setton has other plans. He'd made the promise in a moment of weakness, when he thought he'd been dying. Now he has bigger plans for his daughter--marriage to a powerful Lord. When Bernard insists, Setton has him thrown into the dungeon.
Claire can't believe her father would have promised her to the bumbling squire Bernard had been before he'd headed for the Holy Lands, but she doesn't think Bernard deserves the dungeon either. She frees him thinking he'll vanish into the night. Bernard has other plans. Even if he has to give up his dreams of marrying Claire, he wants his land. He kidnaps her and holds her for ransom. While waiting for Setton to come up with the ransom money, Bernard and Claire fall in love. Bernard learns that he holds the short end of the bargain. Claire is worth more than any landed holding.
THE CONQUEROR is a well written tale that reflects the deep hunger for land that was typical in the crusader era. Shari Anton draws the reader into a medieval universe that includes both castles and peasant huts. While the reader may quibble with the historic reality of some aspects of the novel (would anyone seriously demand a woman's weight in gold from a minor English Lord for his daugher's ransom in an era when trade was mostly by barter, and could Bernard really have purchased a landed estate in a time when land was not truly property), the fully developed romance and the friendship between Bernard and the other members of the Knights of the Black Rose (a Harlequin Historical continuity series) makes this a truly enjoyable read.
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