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Friday, September 11, 2009

Art of Love by Keena Kincaid

Art of Love by Keena Kincaid
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical
Heat: Spicy
Length: Full (359 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Books
Reviewed by Bittersweet

Abigail d’Alene has been sinfully in love with learning all her life, and as a widow, she now has the means and freedom to indulge in her passion. Pretending to be Abelard, a fifteen-year-old boy from an outlying village, she heads to the Latin Quarter of Paris and the abbey schools that will one day change the world.

Shocked by her ineptitude at masquerading as a boy, Alain of Huntly Woods takes the young “Abelard” under his protection until she recovers her sense and goes home. But her audacity, intelligence and refusal to compromise spark enough friction between them to burn through his cold logic and carefully laid plans.

In Paris as a spy for Henry II, Alain has sold his soul to the Angevin devil in exchange for the king’s promise of an heiress, land and power. As his good intentions bring him unexpected passion, he struggles to find a way to have it all.

Then he discovers Abigail’s uncle, confessor to King Louis VII of France, plots against the English king, and Alain must choose between protecting his king or the woman he loves beyond all reason.

The city of Paris has without doubt been considered for many years one of the most romantic cities in the world. I am certain that I am not the first to imagine myself staring upon the lighted houses of the city from atop the sparkling Eiffel Tower. However, “Art of Love” takes place long before the well-known global icon of Paris was even built. Situated in a medieval period, Ms. Kincaid’s knowledge of history and apt narrative style easily transported me to a time in which there were no concrete roads, the smell of dirt and human waste lingered in the air, and mud was practically engraved into boots and clothes. It was a time of intellectual disorder and political intrigue.

Through all, within this bleak, dreary place, two characters stand out like a beacon of hope: Alain and Abelard/Abigail. One is a man with a larger duty to another. The other is a woman, who wishes only to be an equal in a society that did not contemplate the fact that women could think. In their own ways, both characters are equally captivating (although I must admit that I found Abigail a bit too naïve at times, considering the enterprise she was taking).

However, Ms. Kincaid is not only able to reconstruct history; she can also create a great love story. The feelings that surge between the characters are almost visible from the beginning (more than once did I wonder in frustration when one of them would give in and kiss the other), but once they caved in to their feelings things did not turn simpler…

However, to appreciate all of the above, one must get over the numerous scholarly discussions and the use of random foreign phrases which become unnecessary and only make the novel drag on at times.

Nonetheless, “Art of Love” is an engaging and most passionate read.