|Gabriella Anderson is a competent writer who has given us several entertaining Regency historicals. Now, with Temptation's Warrior, she is trying her hand at medievals. It is an acceptable but far from perfect read.
Payne Dunbar, a knight whose prowess on the battlefield is the stuff of troubadour songs, has no scruples about abducting his employer's former betrothed until he realizes he has taken the wrong woman. This doesn't bother Baron Coxesbury. He is quite happy to adjust his plans to include Lady Elfreda - or Elf as she is known despite her extraordinary height. He is also quite ready to overlook her objections and hold her prisoner. A conscience-striken Payne helps her escape, forfeiting two-years of back payment for doing so. But before taking her back to her uncle, he insists on taking a side trip to a tournament. This detour may provide another pretext for Elf and Payne to share a tent, but the entire episode could have been omitted.
After other unnecessary detractions, the two are up against the Baron again. He is not about to let go of the land and allegiance that will come with marriage. Elf realizes there is only one way out: pretend to her uncle that Payne and she have already exchanged vows. Although Payne isn't too happy about being tied down, he doesn't betray her and agrees to a proper wedding. Once he discovers his wife comes with a castle, land and men, he feels appropriately rewarded.
The second half of the story relates how Payne and Elf restore her family castle to its former glory and adjust to marriage life. The main conflict is external: Coxesbury has moved to the vicinity and is determined to get his revenge. Their concerted efforts to defy him make this half less episodic, but it is not without its faults.
First, very little sexual and romantic tension remains. Payne and Elfreda are already getting along quite well, despite the occasional minor disagreements about her unusual behavior. While a marriage based on friendship and mutual respect is an admirable thing, it doesn't exactly generate page-turning sizzle.
Secondly, most of the events are predictable. Some mystery surrounds an unknown assailant whose recent actions threaten the safety of the castle and its occupants. Yet despite the red herrings, his identity is pretty obvious.
Other aspects of the book don't compensate for the weak plot. The characters are consistent but not particularly distinctive. Elf is a much-too-recognizable medieval romance heroine: ahead of her time in her independent spirit. Like others of her kind, she prefers the sword and the pen to the needle and the loom. Similarly, Payne is just another honorable warrior, waiting to be softened by the right woman.
Anderson provides enough historical detail to make the story work and to give it an authentic touch. She doesn't overwhelm us with information about medieval life and history, but she doesn't exactly transport us into another world either. Although the dialogue occasionally draws a smile, the writing is not exceptional.
In short, while Temptation's Warrior doesn't have any serious flaws, it is neither outstanding nor memorable in its execution. At $26.95 for a hardback edition, it is one temptation that is easily resisted. If you are an irredeemable fan of medievals, borrow it from your public library and save your money for a keeper.