Fulk the Reluctant Mass Market Paperback – Jul 1 2004
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No amount of physical torture from his king or his fellow knights is enough to appease the guilt he feels. His father disowned him and his king lost patience with him. His greatest fear is that the rage in him will be released on someone else he adores. Fulk vows never to let his rage run rabid but it becomes increasingly difficult when he meets Jehanne.
Jehanne, known to all as the Iron Maiden of Windemere is tall and fair but not your usual lady of silk and ribbons. Jehanne's father wanted a boy and all through her childhood she was treated as such, trained in the fine arts of combat, swords and bows instead of sewing and stitching.
Jehanne spent her whole life trying to make her father proud with her skill as a knight but it hasn't worked. As a young woman he seeks to control and change her. She denies every man's affections because she knows it will lead to her succumbing to their rule as all women do. She would prefer never to leave Windemere, "a place she loved more than life."
Fulk fights in tourneys to raise money for his sister Celine's dowry. During his last battle he throws down his weapon, surrenders his horse and refuses to strike the last rider (Grimald). Doing so he becomes the prisoner of Lord Grimald. This leaves a sore impression of Fulk in Jehanne's eyes but also a curiosity.
Grimald is one of the many men Jehanne's father would marry her off to if she would just cooperate. Before the tourney she embarrasses him in front of a crowd. To punish them both, Grimald orders Fulk to Windermere to take it by force with further instructions to make Jehanne his wife and produce an heir. Fulk agrees under order of the King but he wasn't planning on the strength and tenacity of one woman. Neither thinks they are worthy of another's love or that anyone is capable of loving them because of their perceived faults.
Fulk and Jehanne have much in common even though they don't know it. Their training in knighthood, belief in honor and chivalry, their love of family and of horses as well as being at odds with their fathers. Both have unresolved conflicts external and internal.
This story is what everyone thinks a Harlequin novel is. It has the typical gorgeous man and gorgeous woman who almost come together numerous times but something or someone keeps getting in their way until they work things out in the end. This story is different. It has a great plot; lots of deception and battles. It's not just a sexy novel although there were a couple scenes that were hot. There was an especially erotic wagon scene that made me say "Wow." The journey is fun and I think it would make a great movie.
The chemistry between Fulk and Jehanne and the plot to frame Fulk and trap Jehanne kept me reading. The supporting characters are charming. Especially the Scot, Malcolm MacNiall, Fulk's best friend (who would follow him to the ends of the earth and back even if it meant he'd lose both his arms in the process) and Fulk's frisky sister, Celine, the Wild Rose of Redware.
There was a confusing start after the prologue but from there on in I was hooked. Lots of action, lots of tension. Mild breaks of comedy to lighten the load. This was definitely not what I expected from a Harlequin novel. I learned a lot about chivalry, knighthood and tournaments as well as the treatment of women during the 1200s.
My only other complaint is with the title. Jehanne is a major character and I would have liked her to have been mentioned in there somewhere. Overall, an excellent read.
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