The Captive Heiress by Blair Bancroft



High Middle Ages – 12th century England and France

Historical Romance

Heat Level: 1

REVIEW RATING: 4 Stars

BLURB
Alecyn de Beauclaire, an orphaned heiress, is taken captive at age nine by the Earl of Rocheford who wants to enjoy the income from her estates. Her first friend in the strange new world of Castle Rocheford is Ranulf Mort à Mer, a descendant of Vikings and a penniless squire with no hope of ever being able to afford a horse and armor so he can become a knight. As the years go by, their friendship is unwavering, even when tested by the preaching of monks who declare that all women are evil and should be shunned. When Alecyn is almost fourteen (a marriageable age in Medieval times), King Henry II makes Alecyn his ward. She is thrilled because she knows the king will want to keep her money for himself and, therefore, will not marry her off for several more years. Perhaps there is still time for Ranulf to become a knight and distinguish himself in battle.

In her position as companion to the royal children and songstress to the royal court, Alecyn learns not only the epic romance of chivalry, but the dark side of romance as she witnesses the love/hate relationship between the king and queen. Ranulf, meanwhile, learns to fight side by side with a new friend, William Marshall. But even Ranulf’s eventual elevation to knighthood is not enough to qualify for the hand of an heiress to four fine estates.Until, one day, Queen Eleanor goes for a hunt on her lands in the Aquitaine, and Ranulf and his friend, William Marshall, are among her escorts. Perhaps, just perhaps, if the three young people survive captivity by Eleanor’s rebellious knights, they may have a future after all. But which young knight will King Henry choose for Alecyn?


Review by LadyOfMisrule

The Captive Heiress is an endearing love story set against the backdrop of Henry II’s turbulent reign. Alecyn de Beauclaire is orphaned at the tender age of nine, leaving her the sole heiress to four estates. The rich income promised by the estates she now owns prove a tempting lure, and she is promptly captured by the Earl of Rocheford and taken to live in his castle as his ward. Her relationship with young squire Ranulf Mort à Mer is established early on, in a poignant scene in the young heiress’ secret retreat; a high-walled rose garden. Alecyn and Ranulf are both recruited into the royal entourage after performing before the king and queen, and whisked up into the events of Henry and Eleanor’s reign, slowly gaining recognition for their talents and hoping against hope that one day the king will allow a penniless squire to marry a young woman who is to be the beneficiary of a great fortune.

Alecyn as a central character is brilliant. She is intelligent, spirited and feisty – without being coquettish – and she proves her mettle when under pressure more than once, which is basically everything I want from a heroine. Alecyn quickly comes to understand what the role of a chatelaine encompasses, but her independent spirit rebels against the myriad restrictions of her sex. She notes with distaste how even women who have proven themselves to be competent in their own right are pushed aside and relegated to secondary roles once their husbands return, determining not to let herself suffer the same fate.

Ranulf is strong and stalwart young squire of Viking blood with a strong sense of loyalty. As fifth son of a minor lordling he has no inheritance to look forward to, and must instead make his own way through life and prove himself through the merit of his actions. At the opening of the novel, Ranulf is a man of few words who tends to keep his own counsel, but over time – and with the help of multiple musical performances for the king and queen – he becomes more vocal, using the strictures of courtly love to deftly communicate his deepest desires without causing offence.

Bancroft is adept at setting the scene, and uses appropriate illuminating prose to bring the 12th century to life. The twin themes of chivalry and courtly love are currents which run strongly through the novel from start to finish. This provides a good, historically accurate backdrop from which the reader can compare and contrast the ‘rules of chivalry’ with real life, as it is for Alecyn and Ranulf. Roses are also used throughout as a device to symbolise both courtly love and the progression of Alecyn’s connection with Ranulf from an almost familial bond of friendship through to wholehearted love and affection. Their cause seems hopeless, but you cannot help but root for the star-crossed lovers, stealing kisses where they safely can, as they are clearly meant to be together.

The novel comes along very smoothly, and although some of the characters may stagnate in backwater castles for sizeable chunks of time, Bancroft fortunately does not make us languish there with them.  The ending did seem a little abrupt to me, despite being a fitting conclusion to the story. This is probably because the ending is also very much a beginning, and for much of the novel the protagonists are in a state of limbo, but potentially it could just be me wanting to read more about Alecyn and Ranulf, as I didn’t want their story to be over! It was an enjoyable read, and I will be looking out for more from Bancroft in the future 🙂

** At time of review The Captive Heiress is available from Amazon.com in ebook format for $.99**

LADY OF MISRULE

Hi, I’m Bek , a twentysomething bookworm, but I prefer to call myself a member of the Literati. I have been a big fan of Historical fiction for almost a decade. I am a proud Yorkshire rose, and my interest for history was initially sparked by the War of the Roses, but has from this seed bloomed into a full on passion! I am a person who is never satisfied unless they are learning, or working towards something. Books set in a historical setting help me to scratch that itch, and my lengthy commute to work and back every day means that I often get through them at a good pace! I’m also a sucker for a good, tasteful love story 🙂

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