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Friday, May 27, 2011

Joanna by Roberta Gellis

Joanna by Roberta Gellis
Roselynde Chronicles – Bk. 3
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (378 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Among the deceit and danger in tumultuous medieval England there exists an innocent, hungry love—a love so rare it becomes the deadliest risk of all.

The beautiful Joanna, Alinor’s iron-willed daughter, is heiress to the Roselynde estate and a power so incredibly strong that mighty kings are enraged with jealousy. Secretly, Joanna burns with an explosive inner passion as wild and radiant as her flaming red hair. But her deepest emotions are sadly suppressed by the devastating fear of a man’s tender love.

Bound by the violent lusts and dangerous trappings of King John’s decadent court, she defies every outward obstacle—only to come face-to-face with the terror in her own heart. Caught between an unyielding pride and a consuming desire for the sensuous and handsome Geoffrey Fitzwilliam, Joanna struggles to avoid surrendering herself to the irresistible fires raging within her.

“A love so rare it becomes the deadliest risk of all” is a love that Joanna is afraid to experience.

In the time of King John before the Magna Carta, England seethed with uneasiness, uncertainty, cruel wars, and intrigues that fermented to the point of exploding.

Fifteen-year-old Joanna, Alinor’s daughter and heiress to Roselynde is capable, intelligent, and can manage a castle well. She controls servants and men-at-arms with fairness and firmness. She manages accounts and metes out justice with authority and with an even hand. Yet, she is a good-humored, gentle, biddable beauty who loves her BIG dog Brian—given to her by a longtime friend Geoffrey Fitzwilliam.

The men who ride with Joanna as she tends to business at all the family holdings, have a high regard for her and protect her at all cost. She goes about her business without fear, but she does fear the tender love of a man. She does not want to suffer like her mother and her friend Ela do when their much-loved husbands go to war. Joanna vows to wed a good friend and companion but NOT to fall in love. This is a strong theme throughout the story.

Geoffrey Fitswilliam, bastard son of William of Salisbury King John’s brother, is hated by the king and Queen Isabella. They never cease looking for ways to hurt or even kill him. Well-trained in the ways of war by Ian who is Joanna’s stepfather, Geoffrey serves the king with his abilities even though neither he nor Ian believe in what the king is doing to his subjects. When the king sends him to subdue the people of Wales with whom he has close ties, Geoffrey is hard pressed to stay faithful.

While many noblemen hate the King’s overbearing ways and his break with the church, they feel “However your head hurts you, it is better to keep it than to have it chopped off”. They fear their country will fall apart if King John is deposed, so they do his bidding and thread an uneasy path.

Secondary characters and how they influence Joanna and Geoffrey’s lives keep an undercurrent of turmoil bubbling. Henry Braybrook, the queen’s lackey tries his best to compromise Joanna and gets outfoxed time and again. When it seems he will finally succeed Brian, the BIG dog, comes along and plays havoc with the plan (a delightful bit of comic relief).

How the people cope with horrific wars, the London fire of 1212, and the court conspiracies adds many sub-plots to Joanna and Geoffrey’s story. The war scenes, the court scenes, and the king’s conflict with the church overshadow their beautiful love story at times. I found myself skimming to get back to them. Roberta Gellis creates wonderful scenes showing how both of these young people handle responsibility while all the time maturing emotionally. She helps the reader share Joanna’s and Geoffrey’s inmost thoughts in a memorable way. These two strong characters truly make a “hero’s journey”. Their tenacity, loyalty, and unfailing efforts to make a safe and better life for all make Joanna compelling.