A Whisper of Rosemary
by Colleen Gleason
(Avid Press, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-929613-96-2
***
A Whisper of Rosemary, Colleen Gleason's debut romance, is a medieval with dark overtones and a satisfying love story underneath. Dirick of Derkland, one of King Henry's trusted confidantes, is agonized to hear of the death of his father. According to Merle Lareux of Langumont, the nobleman who found him, Harold Derkland's throat had been cut and his body arranged. Dirick vows to avenge his father's death. He is suspicious of Lareux; did he truly find the body, or is he the murderer? Perhaps a personal visit to Langumont will answer his questions.

Maris of Langumont, beloved daughter of Merle, is shocked to find her father has betrothed her to Victor D'Arcy, a man she loathes. He is getting old, her father explains. If he should die, there would be no male to protect Maris and her mother, Allegra, and Maris' vast inheritance might be swindled away from her. D'Arcy is on his way to Langumont to sign the betrothal contract. Meanwhile, Dirick arrives, claiming to be on a mission for the king and asking for hospitality and an audience with Merle to hear firsthand of his father's death.

Dirick quickly establishes Merle's innocence, which means he will have to search for more information. Dirick is intrigued by the tall daughter who insulted him when first meeting him on the road. As Dirick spends a few days at Langumont, he and Maris become friends - and then begin to feel much more for one another. But when Victor D'Arcy arrives, Maris sees no way out of the betrothal as her father turns a deaf ear to her pleas. And Victor is not the only problem at hand. The oily Lord Bon de Savrille has set eyes on Maris and decided she'll make him a perfect wife. If necessary, he will kidnap her and force her to wed him. Maris' mother, Allegra, has her own shameful reasons for wanting to stop the betrothal.

This sounds like a lot of plot for one book, but it's handled adroitly. Maris is clever and spirited without turning into a ninny, and Dirick is the most empathetic figure in the book as he tries to balance his need for vengeance with his growing feelings for Maris. The atmosphere is well-done, too; realistic details bring it to life. No Disney castle here.

The book does struggle on two counts. There is a decided lack of emotion here; the book relies heavily on telling us what the characters are feeling, and they come across as rather wooden.. Also, the dialogue bounces back and forth from straightforward to faux medieval at will, with no consistency. "Mayhaps', "'twas", "'twould" and the like pop up at random; since there's little consistency, it makes the characters sound like they're spouting B movie dialogue at times. The book would have been stronger without these affectations.

But if you're looking for an entertaining tale, A Whisper of Rosemary fits the bill nicely. Lovers of medieval romance will likely find this one worth their while

--Cathy Sova


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