Another Chance to Dream
by Lynn Kurland
(Berkley, $6.50, G) ISBN 0-425-16514-0
Landless knight Sir Rhys de Piaget and Gwennelyn of Seagrave have loved each other since they first meet when he is a young lad of fourteen and she a child of nine. Rhys rescues Gwen from a pigsty and earns her undying admiration by forcing an apology out of the older boy who put her there. Rhys, for his part, is charmed by this free-spirited and intelligent young girl, though he knows an alliance between them is hopeless. A subsequent meeting five years later proves that theirs is no quick infatuation. Gwen loves Rhys; Rhys loves Gwen. Since she is promised to the odious, but wealthy, Alain of Ayre the only hope for them is for Rhys to amass enough money to bribe her away.

So begins Another Chance to Dream, the latest historical by Lynn Kurland. I have enjoyed this author's writing in the past, and her style and technical ability remain unchallenged. However, this story left me unmoved and largely uninterested in the fates of the characters. The novel's rather dark overtones cast a pall over the book, and the majority of interaction between Rhys and Gwen was bleak at best and downright depressing at worst.

Gwen and Rhys meet for the third time when he returns from France to find her and try to spirit her away. Gwen is attempting to escape her marriage, literally, by disguising herself as a boy and pretending to be a mercenary soldier. The fact that she cannot ride a horse or even draw her stolen sword from its scabbard puts her perilously close to the "twit" category of heroine, especially since she seems to believe nobody will notice. Rhys quickly sees through her disguise, but not soon enough to save her. Alain tracks her down and Rhys, who had fostered to Alain's father and still owes a year of service to the family, must now serve Alain.

Rhys and Gwen can find no way to escape her impending marriage. Alain offers Rhys a keep and lands if he remains in service for two years, and Rhys cannot bring himself to turn it down. On the eve of the wedding, Gwen seeks Rhys out and offers her virginity to him as proof of her devotion. The next day she marries Alain, and the novel goes downhill from there.

For the next two hundred pages, the reader suffers with Rhys as Gwen bears Alain two children and cannot be more than a superficial companion to Rhys, who has been assigned as her Captain of the Guard by the odious Alain and his cunning brother, Rollan. This brings them into constant contact. Hopefully, they will make a misstep and Rollan will have an excuse for killing Rhys. Rhys acts the part for two years, and at the end, Gwen doubts that he even loves her. (Of course, they never talk about it, so she can be somewhat forgiven.) Then Rhys leaves the service of Alain and heads back to France. He needs gold enough to hire soldiers if he is going to win his land away from Alain, who has soldiers stationed in the keep.

Neither Rhys nor Gwen ever showed enough spirit to fully engage my interest. While the author does a good job of making the reader understand how trapped these two are, it does not make for an enjoyable read. For a renowned knight, Rhys seemed more passive than anything else. Gwen displayed an irritating lack of maturity at times. She's too quick to decide what is right, and too quick to lose faith in Rhys when her plans don't bring her all that she hopes.

Alain and his brother are two-dimensional bad guys. There is a child with a mystical gift who drifts in and out of the story; other than being granddaughter to an outcast healer, her presence is never fully explained. (Perhaps she's meant to be the heroine in an upcoming book?) Years pass by with the turn of a page; two years here, three years there. All in all, the story seemed rambling and unfocused, and the short time the lovers were together toward the end wasn't a big enough payoff.

Lynn Kurland is a gifted writer and hopefully Another Chance to Dream is just a stumble for her. Die-hard medieval lovers may like this book, but I just can't give it a thumbs-up recommendation. It left me feeling rather bleak myself.

--Cathy Sova

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