Tuesday, 24 August 2010

A Rose in Winter by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

GENRE: historical romance

The fairest flower in Mawbry is Erienne Fleming, the enchanting, raven-haired daughter of the village mayor. Charming, spirited and exquisitely lovely, she is beset on all sides by suitors, any one of whom would pay a king's fortune for a place in her heart. But Erienne has eyes for only one: the dashing and witty young Yankee, Christopher Seton. But marriage for love is not to be, for her irresponsible and unscrupulous father, crippled by gambling debts, is intent on auctioning off his beautiful daughter to the highest bidder. And in the end, Erienne is devastated to find it is the strange and secretive Lord Saxton who has purchased her--a mysterious, tragic figure who wears a mask and a cloak at all times to hide disfiguring scars gained in a terrible fire some years back. But in the passing days, Saxton's true nature is revealed to her. A gentle and adoring soul, he treats his new bride with warmth and abiding tenderness, yet appears to her only by daylight. She, in turn, vows to be a good and loyal wife to him. And then Christopher Seton re-enters Erienne's world. Conflicted by emotions she cannot suppress, Erienne valiantly attempts to remain honourable to her elusive, enigmatic husband but feels herself irresistibly drawn to Seton's passion, his fire, and his secrets. Entangled in intrigues she doesn't yet understand, Erienne Fleming will soon have to make a devastating choice: between love and honour...between her duty and her heart.

I read this historical romance for the first time way back when I was 15, and I have re-read it a few times since. It is my favourite historical romance and it is also the novel that first introduced me to the genre. Before A Rose in Winter, I mostly read crime novels, but this novel showed me a new horizon and I’ve been partial to this genre ever since.

The summary of this book is very eloquent, so I don’t need to delve deeper into the story itself. The plot is simple: a beautiful girl has to marry, but she has an independent spirit and a father who resents that, so after a series of unfortunate events, she is sold to the highest bidder in a public auction, which is her ultimate humiliation. Before the auction happened, Erienne met Christopher Seton and fell for him, and she hoped that he would buy her. Being bought is a total humiliation, but if she must marry someone like this, then she’d prefer it if this man were Christopher. However, he doesn’t speak for her, which breaks her heart, and she has to marry a dark, disfigured nobleman, Lord Saxton. This is where the story truly begins.

Erienne is married to Lord Saxton, but Christopher still persists in her life and makes everything so much harder. She wants to be a good wife, although her husband whose disfigured face, hidden behind a mask, she has never seen, scares her; but Christopher already has her heart and so, Erienne is divided between following her duty or her heart.

I really liked the protagonists of the novel. Erienne is an independent woman in spirit, smart and fierce, but she is just a woman, so even she must follow the rules of men. She evolves during the course of the novel, but in her essence she remains the same. Christopher Seton is actually one of my favourite male literary characters. He is very handsome, adventurous, confident, arrogant and passionate, which adds to his sensual nature. But he harbours guilt and deep resentment, and he has a very interesting idea about how to deal with those emotions. He is very mysterious, temperamental and a bit dark. He is very smart, mostly serious, but is able to make jokes, too. He is actually pretty sensitive, but he won’t show it, except to one particular lady. He is also very loyal. Interestingly enough, he is closely connected to Lord Sexton, Erienne’s husband, but it is the nature of their relationship that shocks you once you learn the truth. When I learned the truth behind what exactly connects Christopher and Lord Sexton, my jaw dropped a little. It is a great plot twist and Erienne is a far better woman than I am, because if I learned the truth about them while being in her position, there’d be real hell to payand they wouldn’t get away so easily. Erienne reacts to the discovery with anger, but she resigns to it rather quickly. I wouldn’t; I’d make them grovel until they were too old to grovel. So, yes, simply put: a great plot twist.

Apart from having great protagonists and a wonderful plot twist, this story is also very reminiscent of “Beauty and the Beast”. Erienne, the beauty, marries Lord Sexton, the beast, and the question is: can she ever grow to love him and cast aside the handsome Christopher? Lord Saxton really has the qualities of the beast from the fairy-tale: he may look badly, but he has a beautiful soul. For a long time, I couldn’t decide which would be best because I found both men appealing.

This story has a few minus points. There are many stock characters involved. Apart from the main trio, all other characters are very typical – the typical nasty father, the typical and spiteful rival of our beautiful Erienne, and so on. I would have also made Erienne far more angry when she discovers the truth and not so easily resigned to it. Still, I enjoyed the story very much and if you like a good historical romance, I definitely recommend you read this one.



Anonymous said...

are there available e-books for this? thanks!

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

I don't know if there are any e-books of hers out there, but I'm pretty sure this novel can be borrowed from a library.

Blodeuedd said...

I have thsi book with 4 short stories, and since it says Woodwiss on the cover then she must have written one :)

Stephanie (Books Are A Girl's Best Friend) said...

I love historical romances so this book sounds lovely. I know you said that you read it at 15 but I just wanted to make sure, is it all clean content?

Thanks Irena :)

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

@Stephanie: I first read it at 15, and about three years ago the last time, when I was 21. It has some steamy scenes, but they're not nasty. It may sound weird, but even those scenes are quite enjoyable to read.;)

Kween Ka- Mama Gee said...

This book is my all time favorite. In my teen years, and even after reading many other books, this one still holds my heart. I'm 44 years old now with 7 kids. I just read this book again and even though I've read it many times, I can't get enough of it..I love all of Kathleen E. Woodwiss books!

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