Sunday, September 8, 2013

Review: In the Shadow of Midnight by Marsha Canham

Title: In The Shadow of Midnight
Series: Robin Hood Trilogy
Author: Marsha Canham
Read copy: Mass Market Paperback
Published: March 5, 1994
Publisher: Dell
ISBN: 0440206138
ISBN-13: 9780440206132


Niece to the powerful Marshal of England, Lady Ariel de Clare was as skilled with the broadsword as any knight—a fierce, headstrong beauty determined to disobey the King himself rather than marry by decree. No man would ever command her. And no man did—until she met the legendary warrior pledged to see her safely to Wales, the bastard son of a nobleman who challenged her untamed soul.

She was a complication Eduard FitzRandwulf d'Amboise could ill afford, the ravishing redhead disguised as a squire in his ragtag band, a pawn in a dangerous plan to rescue Princess Eleanor from the unspeakable evil of King John. There was no room for error—or for wildfire passions raging out of control.

My rating:

Eduard FitzRandwulf d'Amboise finds a trespasser playing with swords in his father’s armory. A half-naked trespasser with green eyes and long, red hair. So, what is a man to do upon stumbling onto a beautiful, half-naked stranger? He grabs her and teases her...Until she reveals her identity. She’s her father’s guest’s niece. She’s the niece of William, the Marshall of England.

Then she runs away without giving Eduard a chance to apologize. And since she’s William the Marshall’s niece, Eduard is probably a dead man.

Actually, he’s not, since Ariel neglects to mention the ‘incident’ to either her uncle or brother. After all, she wasn’t supposed to be in the armory in the first place. So she’s not about to say anything. Besides, she’s never laying eyes on the unkempt serf who’s accosted her, either. Or is she? Because the bastard son of their host looks very much like the serf in the armory, only better dressed and cleanly shaved. On closer scrutiny, it is the same lout. How dare he? And how dare he mock her throughout the evening meal? How dare a bastard speak thusly to a lady?

Well, she’s put him in his place, hasn’t she? And once she leaves she’ll never have to see him again. Unless her uncle decides FitzRandwulf is to accompany them back to England. There goes her peace of mind. Now she has to spend even more time with him, dressed as his squire, remembering that wretched kiss on the battlements. Ooh, the gall of the man to still tease her, to make her remember that wretched kiss on the battlements...What is she to do? Certainly not fall in love.

This second installment in Marsha Canham’s Robin Hood Trilogy was much more historical than its predecessor, which is somewhat of a pattern in her multi-book historicals. The first book is to establish the characters, the second is to thrust them into a true historical content. Though the characters weren’t the same as in Through a Dark Mist, except for the cameos from the Black Wolf and Lady Servanne, and let’s not forget Sparrow, the male lead has been introduced in the previous book.

So, as I said, there was much more history involved than in the first book in the trilogy. In the prologue the author offered an ‘alternative’ explanation to the ‘disappearance’ of Arthur of Brittany in approx. 1203, the book offered an ‘alternative’ fate of Eleanor of Brittany, the story was set against the backdrop of the war for the provinces of Touraine, Brittany, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, and in the epilogue the reclaiming of Normandy by the French was mentioned...

I’m really glad the historical content was rather predominant in this one, because if I had to read even more about the heroine and experience more of her obtuse, childish, spoiled tantrums I’d probably had hurled the book at the wall. Marsha Canham is one of those authors where I like all her heroines, even the stubborn and proud ones, but Lady Ariel De Clare was obnoxious and annoying almost throughout the entire story. Lucky for us she fell head over heels in love with the hero and suffered a character transplantation that actually endeared her to me toward the end. But at the beginning I just wanted someone to run her through with a sword, bash her over the head, strangle her or throw her off the battlements of a keep. Or maybe all of it. In that order.

But I guess, in hindsight, she was a rather fitting heroine for our Eduard. He needed someone like that, someone to notice, someone to keep him ‘engaged’, someone to keep him thinking about, someone to burrow under his skin...He needed someone like Ariel to demolish those walls he’s erected around his heart and around his emotions. And by taming her (a little), he’s been tamed as well.

It was a rather frustrating read, this love story of Eduard and Ariel, but a satisfying one in the end.

There was another difference between the first and second book in this trilogy, beside the emphasis on the historical setting—the action. Though there were a few ‘skirmishes’ I didn’t feel the action, the violence of that time, that played such a major role as in Through a Dark Mist. This story focused more on the characters, their personalities, and relationships to one another. The relationships I was enjoying the most were the ones between Ariel and Eduard (yes, despite the beginning) and Eduard and Princess Eleanor. Though the reader, unlike Ariel, knew the truth, their true feelings for one another, it was still a very emotional and bittersweet experience reading the scenes between the two.

This book was a real rollercoaster of a ride. A powerful, intriguing, at times nail-biting, emotional book, that could be read as a standalone, but I suggest reading Through a Dark Mist first. It caters to those that like books where romance takes a little lot more work and the lovers of historicals with an emphasis on the real historical background.

And we got the first glimpses of the ‘merry men’ the trilogy has been inspired by—Littlejohn, Will Scarlett (though he’s still very young in this book), Friar Tuck (what a twist that one was), Alan of the Dale had a cameo, Marienne appeared in a secondary role, and Robin in-the-hood was mentioned.

Now, onto the next book, the last installment in this trilogy, in which Robin and his younger sister, the youngest (I think) of the Wolf’s cubs, will meet (one of them already has) their match.


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