You know I jump at the chance to review Mills and Boon/Harlequin’s historical romance, so I was intrigued by Reclaimed by her Rebel Knight, as I don’t think I’ve read one set in the 13th century before! It turned out to be a lovely character-driven read that showcases a far more gentle and caring relationship than the title might suggest…
Book: Reclaimed by her Rebel Knight by Jenni Fletcher
Read before: No
Ownership: E-copy supplied free of charge via Rachel’s Random Resources. All opinions my own.
Married to a perfect stranger
Reunited with her warrior husband
When Constance inherited her father’s lands she had no choice but to marry cold-hearted Matthew Wintour. He left her for the battlefield without even a wedding night. Five years later Matthew has returned—a valiant knight! But Constance is no longer a frightened girl. And this time she must reach out to discover the honourable man behind the armour and what pleasures await them in the marriage bed…
I enjoyed this book so much! Set during the rule of King John, it focuses on Constance, who lost her parents and entered a marriage of convenience at the age of 14, and her husband, Matthew, who’s been absent since their wedding day, fighting in France. When the book picks up, the two of them have been married for five years, but never said a word other than their vows to each other. This makes for an awkward second meeting when he comes home to collect her, and it takes them a while to warm up to each other and stop resenting the other’s presence in their lives. While I love a marriage of convenience, I’ve never seen it done like this before – opening with the characters already married! – and it worked so well for both the story and the characters.
Constance hugely resents Matthew’s disappearance, thinking that he sees her as a burden he has to take to gain her land, and also hates the fact that as soon as they were married he sent her away from her childhood home to be raised by her family, cutting (she thinks) her ties to the parents she was grieving. Matthew has no desire for a wife, tied up as he is in a plot to curtail the powers of the tyrant Prince John. He’s also wary of relationships in general thanks to his abusive father and string of cowed stepmothers. This could have been a recipe for the Constance and Matthew to detest one another, but instead, thanks to the wonderful character work done here, it’s one of the sweetest and most compassionate relationships I’ve read. The two of them bicker to begin with, of course, but they find a lot to admire in each other as well, and once they promise to be open and honest with each other, this is an incredibly equal and healthy relationship that was a joy to read.
Both Matthew and Constance are likeable and believable, and more importantly, neither of them is stupid! There’s no miscommunication for the sake of the plot, or withholding of feelings because they don’t think the other one will care. Matthew in particular makes it very clear early on that he will do anything in his power to keep Constance safe and happy – partly because he can see how his abrupt departure hurt her pride, and partly because he just seems to be genuinely honourable! I found him utterly engaging – one of the kindest heroes I’ve ever read in romance. Their struggles come mostly from overcoming outside obstacles, not from a lack of care or decency towards each other, which I found comforting and refreshing.
The fact that I’ve focused on character so far doesn’t mean this is a book lacking action, though! There are some excellently tense scenes, especially when Matthew has to deal with his awful father, and I also found the historical context really interesting. The rebellion Matthew is involved in is perfectly historical – there really was a group of rebels who made King John agree to sign a document that would limit his tyranny, and I was excited when I realised we were actually dealing with Magna Carta. I love when the history is front and centre in the setting, so this made me very happy!
So we have excellent history, a couple who actually like each other (and who I can see continuing to have a stable, solid marriage!), and an exciting plot. What more could you ask for? Five out of five cats!
Jenni Fletcher is Scottish by birth, but now lives in Yorkshire where she writes Medieval, Roman, Victorian and Regency romance novels. She studied English at Cambridge and Hull University and now teaches Creative Writing at a small university in the north of England. Her favourite Jane Austen novel is Persuasion and her favourite Brontë is Anne. If she had to choose a romantic hero it would be John Thornton, but maybe that’s just because she’s northern.