When Gavin of Ashgrove and his closest friend are captured in a fierce battle during the Hundred Years’ War, their captors demand a hefty ransom from their fathers for their return. Robert is quickly set free, but Gavin’s father refuses to pay for his son’s release, leaving him to rot in a squalid French prison. Aided by a sympathetic priest, he escapes and returns home to England, only to find he has been proclaimed a bastard and disinherited.
With nowhere to turn Gavin journeys to Kentwood, where he fostered as a boy, hoping Lord Aldred will take him on as a knight in his guard. The old warrior is close to death, but he soon realizes Gavin is his son. Aldred plots to have Gavin inherit Kentwood and marry his much younger wife, Elizabeth, a famed and opinionated beauty who remains a virgin after a decade of marriage.
Will the king recognize Lord Aldred’s first request of a marriage between Elizabeth and Robert, uniting Robert’s estate with Kentwood—or will the temperamental Edward reward Aldred’s years of service and honor a dying man’s final request?
Publisher and Release Date: Soul Mate Publishing, December 2014
Time and setting: Medieval England (1347-1359)
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by Vikki
I always enjoy a good medieval novel, and having read other titles by Lauren Linwood, looked forward to reading this with great anticipation. I was not disappointed. This is an emotional read and pulled me in from the prologue and kept me entertained until the end.
The story begins in 1347. Elizabeth of Aldwyn is anything but a typical young girl in medieval times. She rides hard, wears breeches under her kirtle and loves to hunt. Her father is beyond impatient with her, since she turns off any eligible suitor he brings to the keep. Taking matters into his own hands, he betrothes her to a much older man, one he is sure will be able to tame her. This is one betrothal from which she is unable to extricate herself, and is soon married to Aldred of Kentwood, a legend throughout England for his warrior’s skills and cunning.
On her wedding night, she is greatly relieved to find out that Aldred is impotent. After he offers to have the marriage annulled, Elizabeth tells him that she does not mind that he is unable to consummate their marriage, and that she would not want him humiliated in such a way. Of course he protests until she convinces him he would be doing her a favor, as long as he does not mean to break her spirit. He assures her he likes her spirited ways and promises to teach her all that she wants to learn.
When we meet Gavin of Ashgrove, he has been captured in battle and a ransom demand has been sent to his father, but he refuses to pay. Gavin languishes in prison for two years until a priest helps him to escape. When he arrives at Ashgrove, he finds his beloved mother dead, his father remarried and that he has been declared a bastard and disowned. Gavin turns to the man who fostered him, Lord Aldred.
When Gavin arrives at Kentwood, Aldred welcomes him with open arms and after hearing his tale, appoints him Captain of the guard. Aldred realises Gavin is his son, but does not tell him. Aldred sends a letter to the king asking that he allow him to marry Elizabeth when he – Aldred – dies.
This is the set up for the story. Of course, Elizabeth and Gavin are attracted to each other, but neither wants to hurt Lord Aldred and they fight temptation. It’s a predictable trope, but is well told for the most part. They do share a brief, highly sensual kiss before Aldred dies, but both vow to never repeat it. I enjoyed the romance between Elizabeth and Gavin a great deal, even though at first I was cautious because I do not like stories that feature adultery. Thank goodness, Ms. Linwood does not take the romance there.
There are several great plot twists that make this tale an interesting read beyond the romance. A Bit of Heaven on Earth has unrequited love, a love triangle and even a bit of danger. The story moves along quickly and is engaging. There is depth in the characters, and I liked both of them very much. I particularly liked Gavin and ached for the torment and anguish he felt when he was imprisoned and when he finds out he is a bastard.
While the author does not have the couple engaged in amorous situations – other than the kiss – prior to Aldred’s death, the sexual tension that builds between them is excellent. The chemistry between the hero and heroine is incredible, and that is very hard to do since the author does not have them become physically intimate until well into the story.
At one point in the book, Gavin has decided to go back to France to fight, and the grief they both feel at their parting tore at my heart. Some of the dialogue between the pair is so moving it brought tears to my eyes. Here is one example of one such moment. When they think all is lost, Gavin says this to Elizabeth.
“As the sun rises every day, know that my love for you rises within me till the end of all time.”
If you enjoy a well-written story filled with poignant scenes of deep emotion, then you will love A Bit of Heaven on Earth. I recommend this wonderful tale and look forward to reading other books by this incredibly talented author.