‘Fair, Bright, and Terrible’ by Elizabeth Kingston

fbat ekSTORY: Wales is conquered, and Eluned has lost everything: her country, her husband, her hope. All that remains is vengeance, and she will stop at nothing to have it. Certain there is no trace within her of the idealistic girl who loved Robert de Lascaux a lifetime ago, she agrees to marry him to advance the fortunes of her son, to avoid the nunnery, and most importantly – as an easy way to gain access to the man upon whom she will avenge Wales.

When Robert is asked to marry the woman he has loved for eighteen years, he never hesitates. But the lady who greets him at the altar has so little in common with the girl he adored that he begins to doubt that there is anything left of her bold and passionate younger self. Marriage to her might gain him the fortune and status his family has always wanted, but no wealth has ever mattered to him as much as Eluned has. And she, it seems, does not want him at all.

Trapped in a web of intrigue, revenge, and desire, they cannot forget their past – but can they share a future? The fascinating world of medieval Wales is continued in this riveting companion novel to The King’s Man.

REVIEW: I loved the first book in this series and was on pins and needles waiting for this story. I have to say that I had my doubts about the author’s ability to make me like let alone love the character I so thoroughly disliked in the previous story. Let me say that I was stunned at authors ability of expanding and developing such a rich and deeply flawed, yet likable heroine. Eluned imbued humanity that is all of us. The layers to her character made this woman very relatable.

But I digress! Let me start at saying that this story is of Gwenllion’s mother, Eluned, who was dead set in the first book to fight King Edward I of England and who worked hard at deceiving Ranulf and even her own daughter by attempting to drag her into war. Ranulf spoiled her plans and in this story we see the results of it.

“It all ended in cold flesh. This prince, the war, and every life: it ended in cold flesh, no matter how hot the blood that had once pounded through it. She had always known this, of course. But there is knowing a thing, and then there is feeling the truth of it cut you open and close around your heart.”

As the story opens, we witness Eluned’s heartbreak as the last rebellion is thwarted and her beloved Wales is thoroughly into hands of a ruthless King of England and once again her faith is being decided by men, her son and the king. This time she decides to seemingly accept their will, but is still plotting a revenge for the man that had cost her dearly.

It’s this desire for revenge that stands in her way of finally being happy. I loved the way the author took her time to give me the backstory of Robert and Eluned. It touched my heart at how difficult and painful it was for her to fall in love and then abandon that love, only to rediscover it once more in her forties.

I adored the hero! Robert was so young when he fell in love with her and he’d lived with this feeling all of his adult life. He’d put this woman on a pedestal and he hoped that the marriage that has been arranged by the King would rekindle all the passion they felt when they conducted their affair.

“We think memories are truth,” she went on, calm and relentless, “but they deceive us even as we cherish them. The truth is that many years ago, we were foolish and arrogant. We lusted and we sinned. We called it love. But that summer ended long ago.”

“Do you tell me your love ended with it?”

My heart went out to him when he finds that this woman is nothing like his beloved Eluned. I had tears in my eyes as he notices that the birthmark on her neck is not on the side that he remembers it being.  This small, seemingly insignificant fact has a profound affect on him.

“Love,” she said, and moved her head in a little gesture of dismissal. The golden veil still hung at one side of her face, because he had only freed one pin. It shimmered with her movement, trailing down the side of her neck to her shoulder, reflecting the little light from the fire.

That was when he saw what was wrong. The birthmark on her throat was there. It was everything he remembered  – the size and color, the height from her collar bone, the teardrop shape – except it was on the right side of her throat. Not the left. Yet he remembered it vividly, exactly. He closed his eyes and saw it, a bright image preserved over the years. In his memories he ran his finger across that mark and opened his mouth over it and looked for it every time she threw her head back to laugh as they sat in dappled sunlight. He had thought of it a thousand times over the years. He remembered that mark on the left side of her throat as well as he remembered her saying I will love you until I die.

He opened his eyes and looked at her, his breath coming too fast. He had remembered it wrong. It was as simple as that. As damning, as awful as that: he had remembered it wrong.”

Ms. Kingston did an outstanding job in delivering one of the best second chance in love tropes I’ve ever read.

If you’re a lover of history, you’ll revel in this story because it is told with care and obvious research. If you’re a lover of second chance romance, I beg you not to miss this one. If you are a fan of Nicholas Boulton, you’ll swoon!

Melanie for b2b