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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
It is 12th-century England and the country is ruled by King Henry but always with the support of the barons and lords. Sometimes, though, these powerful men and the odd woman can seek too much power and challenge the Crown. In The Arrangement by Lu Erickson, we meet the courageous widow Lady Adele de Guildfry. After a loveless marriage to the brutal Lord de Guildfry, she is finally released from her living hell by the death of her husband. Determined to run Guildfry on her own, she is determined never to remarry and suffer the brutality and callousness of another man. Her family’s lust for power, however, will see her forced into a corner she will struggle to escape from. Her mother and brother have determined they will make a suitable match for the widow, a match that will increase their own power within the kingdom and allow them control of the Guildfry lands. Adele’s best friend Gwendolyn has somehow navigated the murky waters of matrimony and found a true love match for herself. Despite this, Adele is determined not to endure her family’s plans to marry her off. Kevin Blakeslee is a second son and Gwendolyn’s brother-in-law. As a second son with no inheritance, Kevin has made his name as a brave and respected knight but when he is ordered by the king to woo Adele and so protect the Guildfry lands for the Crown, he is equally determined not to surrender his freedom and marry the widow. Set amongst the tumultuous times of a rebel uprising, this unlikely love affair will play out.
The Arrangement is the perfect blend of the derring-do of the knightly era and the nobility with the sweet, passionate exploration of love and happiness. Author Lu Erickson has beautifully combined the elements that make medieval times so fascinating for readers with mystery, double-dealing, swordplay, and true romance. The characters are realistic, easy to identify with, and root for. Overdrawn, as they should be in a historical romance of this type, it is generally easy to sort the good from the evil and to cheer their successes and lament their failures. The author has truly captured the essence of the warfare of this period, as well as the mythical tales that develop around great deeds (and some not so great deeds) that are amplified and embellished at each telling as the truth is more shrouded in each recitation, through oral tradition and song.
The descriptive style makes it easy to feel the very dampness and coldness of the stone castle walls and to empathize with the stark difference between those born into position and wealth against those born to be serfs or servants. The accident of birth played such a great part in the destiny of all these characters and the author draws this out marvelously. I particularly enjoyed the idea of women having much more power than is generally conceded as being theirs in the Middle Ages. This is an incredibly easy and enjoyable read for lovers of all genres, not just historical fiction. There truly is something for everyone in a simple tale of good vs. evil, honor vs. dishonor, and love vs. hate. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can highly recommend it.