T. J. Bennett continues her series set in 16th century Germany in The Promise. If you haven’t gone out and started reading the first in the series, The Legacy, you definitely should. With a setting that’s not often seen (I think it’s the only time I’ve seen it actually) and a time period that’s not touched upon much, outside of England, The Promise is on the same level as The Legacy, and that means you should run out and pick this one up as well.
The story opens showing the young heroine, Alonsa García de Aranjuéz meeting a young man in the courtyard of her home. Instead of running off with him, as he hopes, they are caught and he suffers a mortal injury, for which he blames Alonsa and curses her and any who might love her. Fast forward a bit and it’s ten years later in Italy. Alonsa is twice widowed and her current fiancee, Martin Dietrich, is dying from battle wounds. She chose him because he didn’t love her and was a Landsknecht (a mercenary for hire).
With his dying breaths, Martin gets his friend Günter Behaim to promise to take care of Alonsa since he knows that Günter has been in love with her for some time. Though Alonsa is unhappy about the promise, she convinces Günter to escort her to Genoa to take a ship back to Spain. Along the way Günter manages to convince Alonsa she should marry him, but things go awry when the French attack and when they are separated both Günter and Alonsa try to do everything to make it back together.
Alonsa is one of few historical heroines I’ve read in a long time that’s been married twice. Since both her husbands loved her in their own ways, they ended up dying because of the curse, or so Alonsa believes. She was pretty realistic for a Spanish woman of the time. Catholic, but still having superstitions when it comes to gypsy curses. Though she’s traveling on her own, she’s selling her father’s swords and that’s how she encountered the German mercenaries.
Günter, who is Wolf’s brother from The Legacy, had a brief role in the first book. The reason he and his brother aren’t close is explained in this story, which had more impact than if it had been explained in the first book. Günter has been traveling as a mercenary for most of his adult life and knows he’s found someone he can settle down with when he meets Alonsa. Having hid his feelings from her for so long, when he can finally marry her he does the smart thing and holds back until he knows Alonsa won’t run scared from her own feelings.
There’s a sweet secondary story with Alonsa’s friend Ines and a young mercenary named Fritz who works hard to woo her. While Alonsa and Günter were concentrating on being honest with each other and not being superstitious, Fritz and Ines concentrate on overcoming their own pasts and how they can accept themselves at the same time as accepting each other. Both of these stories worked very well, but it seemed there was a bit too much concentration on the love aspect and not the love for the rest of one’s life aspect. I’m not sure that people were as fixated on the idea of true love bringing ultimate happiness, but it’s not too much to overwhelm the characters and their path to happiness.
The setting, of course, is the other great part to the story. This time set in Northern Italy during the Battle of Pavia in 1525, there’s a view of how life would have been like for these two foreigners in a new land. And neither character are of the nobility. In fact the only noble is one of the minor characters and he’s from France. It’s refreshing and told very well and I hope T.J. Bennett continues writing in these new and different historical settings. They really help make the story and give lots of interest to the plot as well as seeing great characters fall in love.
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A sacred pledge and a gypsy’s curse drive this medieval love story. Günter Behaim, a professional soldier in the service of Emperor Charles V, has been hardened by betrayal and disloyalty in his life, and he has sworn to make few promises of his own and keep those until death. When his closest friend is mortally wounded on the battlefield, however, Günter pledges to marry the other man’s betrothed and keep her safe. That woman turns out to be a Spanish beauty named Alonsa García de Aranjuéz, but she will have no part of such an agreement.
Trying to keep his promise, Günter uses every weapon in his romantic arsenal to convince the reluctant woman to marry him, and he begins to love her very much. Meanwhile, Alonsa is falling in love too, but she dares not reveal her feelings because she is under a curse that brings misfortune to any man who loves her. As war draws near and danger surrounds them, the couple has to make a crucial decision: accept their fates or risk everything to be together?
Read an excerpt here.
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