4 1/2 stars
*** Spoiler alert ***
Lovespell is yet another great romance by the eclectic Deana James, who wrote wonderful, complex novels like Captive Angel.
Gillian is an English fletcher who poses as twins, the male Gil & female Gillian. A Norman knight named Brian is badly beaten and his armor has been stolen by an errant squire. He is rescued by Gil who cares for him and helps him heal. Brian is a man often too proud for his own good. His honor demands he must pay recompense to Gil for saving his life so he helps him/her make arrows. To satisfy his life debt, Brian must help Gillian bring the arrows to arm the English, the enemies of his people.
In due time Brian figures out Gil’s true identity. He falls for her, as she does for him. This is just the beginning of their love story.
There are many misadventures along the way, as a cast of multi-faceted secondary characters soon takes the stage, adding more drama, romance, and tragic elements to this story. The man who stole Brian’s knight returns, and he’s not quite the evil character Brian first thought he was. That character’s doomed love affair with a noblewoman is exquisitely portrayed, and its conclusion might bring you to tears, as it did for me.
Causing trouble for Gillian and Brian is a multi-faceted gay quasi-villain, Ranulf, who desires Gil, the boy. He beats Brian and captures Gil. In a tense scene, Ranulf attempts to rape her but is so excited he finishes prematurely. Then he is furious to discover he’s a girl!
Oddly enough, after that, Gil & Ranulf establish a friendship of sorts as they march through battle together. In the end, it’s strongly hinted Ranulf loves both versions of Gil/Gillian.
Nevertheless, it’s Brian who is the very intense love of Gillian’s life.
Brian is a conflicted character, a knight in a time where the methods of war were changing. His position and that of others like him were being made redundant through stronger firepower. With the advancement of weaponry, men were fighting at more long-distance ranges. Thus the dependence on utilizing knights on horseback who engaged in sword-to-sword sword combat was lessened.
It was an age where the commoner began obtaining financial power. Men such as Brian, who made their fortunes via the sword, were seeing their time come to an end.
Brian must question who he is as the world around him transforms into something he doesn’t recognize, and he becomes disillusioned. In the end, the hero gives up his knighthood to stay with his beloved, a lower-class arrow-maker who will, on occasion, still pose as a man.
Final Analysis of Lovespell
Lovespell is a great medieval romance. It’s an unconventional and deeply passionate book. Filled with surprises, twists, and turns, it kept me up late at night to read just one more page. Good stuff.
Deana James has yet to disappoint me. I know she (Mona Sizer) has authored mostly nonfiction westerns under her real name in the latter years of her writing career. I only wish she had written more romances.