Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fair Border Bride by Jen Black

In a Northumberland market place in the year 1543, Harry Wharton, spy to King Henry travelling to Scotland first lays eyes on a beautiful, flirtatious girl named Alina Carnaby. Harry would like to linger but his mission presses, yet moments later he is presented with another opportunity to get to know the lovely girl who has enchanted him – by the fact she is about to be gored by a runaway bull.

Harry steps up to the mark and rescues the lady, but she is  betrothed, and her father happens to despise anyone by the name of Scott, the name Harry gives to hide his true identity.

Before leaving for Edinburgh and the dangers of border country, Harry takes a detour to see what Alina’s home, Ayrdon, is like, arriving just as the estate is being visited by cattle raiders, and in the ensuing pursuit, he is thrown from his horse, and is knocked out by an overhanging branch.

Cuthbert Carnaby has ridden off on what is known locally as a Hot Trod,  to catch the raiders. While he is away, Alina finds Harry, and knowing how her father feels about the Scotts, decides to hide him to recover from his injury in a barn out of sight.

However what she doesn’t bargain for is the fact Harry’s blow on the head has given him temporary amnesia and not only can he not remember seeing Alina before, but his mission to Edinburgh appears to have been wiped clean too. His memory returns over the next day or so, but he is discovered and hauled up in front of Cuthbert Carnaby, who demands he be subjected to ‘The Leap’, which turns out to be less of a feat of endurance, but execution by being thrown into a ravine.

Alina’s pleas for clemency are ignored and she is told to prepare herself for her forthcoming marriage to John Errington, a young man who has matured into a not unattractive proposition. However he isn’t Harry and heartbroken, Alina rushes to her grandfather, who is less than sympathetic.

In fact the entire family appear to have had any sentimentality rubbed off by the cruel Northumberland winds, and the only person willing to help Harry is Matho, with whose help, Harry survives the jump and meets up again with Alina,vowing to return within a week and claim her before she is forced to marry John Errington.

Perhaps as a result of being knocked out and his ordeal with 'The Leap', Harry appears have a problem with  timescales and comes back a day late, and frantic, Alina runs away. Then Cuthbert Carnaby arrives in pursuit of his errant daughter.

Will Alina have the courage of her convictions and stand by the man she loves, or will her father succeed in killing Harry this time and drag her to the altar to marry the man of his choice?

As an admirer of Jen Black’s novels, I recommend this romantic story set in a time when women were possessions, obedience was taken for granted and their lives subject to the will of a patriarch. Ms Black writes with a succinct and yet colourful style and portrays descriptions and emotions beautifully.  Alina, Matho and Harry are engaging, well rounded  characters  and I’m happy to say Fair Border Bride isn’t the end of their story as there is more to come from this author.