Betty Davidson knows her 15th century English history, and she excels at making it come alive for the reader. When an author motivates me to go back and read Shakespeare’s Richard III again, I know she has a talent for re-creating history in a lively way. Heart of a Hunter is the story of an arranged marriage, but perhaps even more it is the story of Richard III’s “reign of terror,” and the effect it had on English society.
The story begins in 1483. Lady Riley D’Aubere is deeply concerned that her daughter, Lynette, will never be able to attain a respectable marriage. Her husband David has been proclaimed a traitor by the crown. As a result of this, the D’Aubere estate will revert to the crown upon the death of Lynette’s parents, leaving her with nothing. Lady Riley, desperate to provide for her daughter’s future, decides to collect on an old debt. Twenty years ago, she had saved the Earl of Bellville from imprisonment. He is now on his deathbed, and it is there that Lady Riley approaches him with a marriage contract which would bind his son Devon to her daughter Lynette. The contract is signed, and neither Devon nor Lynette is happy with the prospect of the marriage.
Devon, who has been raised to be a warrior, doesn’t feel prepared to take on a wife. Lynette fancies herself in love with Malcolm, the family’s groom, and can’t bear to betray him by marrying another. She runs off into the woods, intending to enter a convent. Devon sets off to find her, which he does quite easily. Although Lynette is unaware of Devon’s true identity, she is conscious of a strong attraction to him. He promises to lead her to the convent, but instead brings her to his home, where her mother is waiting and the marriage takes place.
This is the beginning of an interesting relationship. Devon, in the typical manner of the 15th century male, is very much the “lord of the manor.” He rules the household and expects obedience. Lynette, on the other hand, while young and somewhat naïve, is also lively, courageous and intelligent; with a mind of her own. This creates a conflict in the marriage which arises repeatedly, but it is one which also contributes to the growth of the relationship over time. While the growing relationship between Lynette and Devon takes up about one third of the book, the remainder deals more directly with the historical events of the time.
Richard Plantagenet is guardian and “protector” to Edward, who is next in line for the throne. However, Richard feels that Edward’s claim on the throne is not legitimate, and that he himself is the rightful king. He traps Edward, his brother, and his sister, keeping them locked in different towers of the palace. When the two princes mysteriously die, there is much speculation over whether Richard has had them murdered. English society becomes split into two factions, those who support Richard, and those who support Henry Tudor, who plans to marry the Princess Elizabeth and become King himself. This conflict is rife with political intrigue, treason, battles, and beheadings. Devon and Lynette become very involved, since Lynette is a good friend of Princess Elizabeth and Devon is working with Henry Tudor to overthrow Richard.
As can often be the case in historical fiction, the “real” characters, the historical figures, are the most compelling. King Richard, Princess Elizabeth, and Henry Tudor are all intriguing. Their conflicts really drive the plot forward. Towards the end I found it very hard to put the book down.
Overall, Heart of a Hunter is fascinating. The history is rich and exciting, and the two main characters are well drawn. The biggest problem I had with the book was that the romance seemed to take the back seat towards the end of the story. There wasn’t really any more tension and conflict between the characters. In spite of this, the relationship showed a lot of growth over time, with Lynette growing more mature and Devon growing more flexible. This gave the marriage a realistic quality.
Heart of a Hunter is actually the sequel to Heart of a Warrior, which is Lady Riley and David D’Aubere’s story. However, you do not need to read Heart of a Warrior in order to enjoy Heart of a Hunter. This book stands alone, and Lady Riley makes only a brief appearance. If you like your romance mixed with a good dose of exciting history, then pick up Heart of a Hunter. You may find yourself learning a thing or two, as I did!