Fire Song

Lord Sin

Velvet Touch

Winter's Bride

Autumn’s Bride
by Catherine Archer
(Harl. Historical #584, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-29182-5
When Kendran Ainsworth, puissant knight and brother of the Lord of Brackenmoore, is attacked, robbed, and left for dead, he is found by Annaliese Stanhope. She manages to cart the unconscious man back to her home where she lives with her father Joseph, a talented furniture maker, and her aunt Jane. Many folk in the area are fearful because there have been many attacks. Annaliese’s mother had been murdered five years earlier, and the culprit was never caught. It is the belief of many that the local lord, the cruel Baron of Kramon, is responsible.

With skillful nursing and care, Kendran survives. He has no memory of the attack. Hearing of Annaliese’s and her family’s distrust of the nobility, he decides to conceal his rank and identity until he knows more. Annaliese has a beloved, Daniel, who is an intellectual and spends all of his time in study. He assisted them after the death of her mother by writing letters to the sheriff of the county, but they never received a response. Annaliese knows that although Daniel has never officially proposed marriage they will eventually wed. Even so, she cannot help being attracted to the powerful, handsome man recuperating in her home. Daniel is disturbed by Kendran’s presence and is looking forward to the day Kendran departs.

When he is well enough to leave, Kendran decides he needs to stay in the area in order to inquire into the attacks. He obtains employment as an apprentice in Joseph’s shop so that he can remain under their roof and spend time investigating.

Often in a review I am confronted with the problem of which subplots I should mention and which I should not. This is not my problem with this medieval romance, one in a series of seasons’ brides. There isn’t much more to Autumn Bride than the synopsis covers. It might have been preferable if it had been written as a novella rather than a full-length book because there simply isn’t sufficient plot to sustain it for nearly 300 pages.

In order to pad those pages, the pacing is slow, and there’s a lot of filler. Annaliese and Kendran spend a large part of their time dwelling on how good looking the other is, how much they desire each other, how blue his eyes are, how blond her hair, how Kendran will leave one day, how Annaliese is nearly promised to Daniel so they shouldn’t feel this way, how they shouldn’t have kissed, how she probably shouldn’t have lifted the blanket to look at his....

Furthermore, much of the action is inaction. Annaliese helps her aunt in the sickroom. She helps her aunt in the kitchen. She takes a basket to the poor. She takes broth to a sick old lady. She cleans a little boy’s scraped knee. Kendran planes some wood. He admires Joseph’s craftsmanship. He listens while Annaliese and Daniel discuss him. He sends word to his family. He takes bread to the poor. Joseph builds furniture. Jane cooks. And they all eat porridge.

Maybe real life is much like this, but it doesn’t make for a very gripping narrative. Since the story is set in the time period soon after the death of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, I question the authenticity of Daniel. He spends all of his time in study and reading in his house. At that time, there was nearly universal illiteracy among the peasant population. Scholarly study was almost exclusively the domain of the clergy. Moreover, books were very rare and expensive - even wealthy monasteries owned only a few. That there could be a common villager so occupied and with such a book collection in the second half of the fifteenth century is nearly impossible.

It’s also highly unlikely that a daughter of a skilled artisan would remain unwed at the age of eighteen or that in an era of rigid social structure, a son of the nobility would have such a flexible attitude towards class distinctions. Moreover, the identity of the villain is pretty obvious from early on so that any pretense of suspense in the whodunit becomes an Iknewthat.

But those objections are minor compared to the book’s major failing. The thin plot should be sufficient to justify thinking twice before choosing it.

--Lesley Dunlap

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