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The Truelove Bride
by Shana Abé
(Bantam, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-58054-X
I'm not sure I would have reviewed Shana Abé's new medieval romance had fate not taken a hand. An advance reading copy for The Truelove Bride turned up in my goody bag at Celebrate Romance. Even as I read the first chapter or so, I was afraid that my overly sensitive radar for historical inaccuracies would destroy any ability to enjoy the book.

But, as sometimes happens, the anachronisms paled to insignificance as I got caught up in the characters and their story. Those who enjoy a strong romantic plot, excellent characterizations, and an intriguing supernatural theme will enjoy Abe's third, and I believe best, book.

Lady Avalon d'Farouche has been brought to King Henry II's court but she is not comfortable there. Her family's castle had been assaulted some twelve years earlier and her father killed. She had been rescued by a visiting Scot, Hamoch Kincardine and spirited away to Scotland where she had lived for seven years. Her experience had made her very different from the other ladies of the court. But what really sets Avalon apart is her psychic ability to read others thoughts, a "gift" which the young woman tries hard to deny.

Hamoch Kincardine had a vested interest in Lady Avalon. Legend has it that his clan will remain under a century-long curse until "the bride" returns to wed the clan's chief. Hamoch had identified young Avalon as the promised bride and had negotiated her betrothal with his son. While she was in Scotland, he tried to turn her into the "warrior" bride of the legend. His ruthless treatment led Avalon to vow that she would never marry and to refuse to believe in the legend. To do so would be to give in to Hamoch.

Summoned by her uncle to return to her home, Avalon is dismayed to discover that Bryce d'Farouche plans to marry the heiress to his brother Warner. She also learns that Bryce was responsible for the raid that destroyed her home. Bryce's plans are thwarted when Marcus Kincardine abducts his promised bride.

Marcus has spent much of his life as a crusader in the Holy Land. He returned to Scotland on his father's death, only to discover that "the bride" was to marry someone else. His duty to his clan requires him to bring "the bride" home, so that the curse on the Kincardines can be lifted.

Avalon feels an immediate attraction to the handsome and brave Marcus, but she refuses to be a pawn in the playing out of an ancient curse whose existence she will not acknowledge. She wants to control her own destiny, even if that means entering a convent. The plot thickens when Warner claims that he has the right to marry Lady Avalon.

What I especially like about The Truelove Bride is the author's handling of the conflict between the heroine and the hero. Avalon's resistance to marrying Marcus is no trifling matter, but rather deeply rooted in her psyche and in her own sense of identity. Thus her rejection of a marriage that seems to make eminent sense is all the more poignant, given the developing relationship between the two.

For his part, Marcus may have abducted Avalon out of a sense of duty to his clan, but as he gets to know the lovely and brave woman, his feelings for her grow quickly into love. She seems to offer him a peacefulness that he craves.

Let me be frank. The Truelove Bride is more of a fantasy romance than a historical romance. The supernatural elements play a very prominent role in the plot and the historical setting is more fairy tale than real (as the author's note at the end recognizes.) Yet, I so liked the hero and heroine and their romance, that I was willing to suspend disbelief and just enjoy myself.

--Jean Mason

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