Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “You de Piaget have strange and unwholesome ideas of independence.”
Isabelle de Piaget, the last child of Rhys and Gwen de Piaget, is tired of being unnoticed and referred to as “that one” by all the suitors who invade her family’s estate wanting to see if her sister Amanda is indeed married and unavailable. When she received a missive, commanding her to come to France or her grandparents’ lives will be forfeit, Isabelle sees this as a chance to get out from underneath her family’s suffocating protectiveness and become her own person. When her boat to France crashes off the coast, she is rescued by a broody man with no memory to who she is and why she is there.
Gevarse de Seger, Lord of Monsaert, has enough to worry about in his own life then trying to discover who a lost servant boy belongs too. Gervase places the bedraggled urchin he rescues to scrubbing floors until he realises that this boy is none other than Isabelle de Piaget and her family, especially her over zealous brother Nicolas, may not appreciate the humor when learning their beloved sister was scrubbing Gervase’s floors. Gervais knows he needs to get word to her family of her health but her beauty and wit ensnares him while her keen mind shows that she may hold the key to his problems.
Working towards the truth takes Isabelle and Gervase on a merry chase as lies and deception slowly unravel to reveal the viper(s) in their midst. Romance takes root and shows our couple that love can bloom at the most unexpected time and all it takes it is a single look.
I have enjoyed Lynn Kurland’s historical romances for years. Ms. Kurland has a wonderfully lyrical and engaging voice that gently guides her characters through the intricate rituals of courtship and love. What I truly enjoy about her stories is the air of innocence in them. The love affairs her characters embark upon are heartfelt and humorous as the romance unfolds. The physical love scenes are almost always non existence or off scene. One delightful aspect of her stories is you’re never sure if this will be a straightforward historical romance, with both protagonists from the same time period, or if she will engage her time traveling storyline, tossing one of them in the future or dragging one back into the past. Or perhaps both.
Dreams of Lilacs is a sweet love story about two people who feel judged by their looks. In here, we stay firmly in the past. This story, rather like her last few, has a gentler feel to it. The passion and energy that was present in her earlier stories isn’t present though I did see a glimmer of it at times. The focus is more on the couple and their journey to their happily ever after rather than the mystery(s) that surround them. Smooth writing and a steady pace makes for easy reading but the tension and drama wasn’t a strong feature here. The main conflict develops admirably but I was a little dismayed by the easy copulation of the villain(s) and the matter of fact way it is resolved. I think this is why I prefer her time traveling romances over the era fixed ones. They are more rambunctious as past meets present and the protags have to ride the culture shock. In here, the flirting and dialogue is appropriate for the time period but is so subtle and polite, it’s hard to get excited about what’s happening at times.
Heavily character driven, it’s the players in this story that brought it to life for me. The humorous dialogue is a prevalent force and I found myself smiling incisively through out here. Isabelle is a delightful heroine; bold, strong, devious, loyal, beautiful, and charming-like all the di Piagets. She embraces her quest and uses her wits and ingenuity to figure out who’s trying to hurt her family and why. As the baby of the family, she just wants to be noticed as a woman in her own right. She feels no one really sees her.
“I have spent my whole of my life , standing in the shadows, saying nothing at all.”
Gervase is a broody man whose frowns and bad moods masks his physical pain. Once one of the most feared knights in France, he was badly injured in a fire and became the subject of speculation, rumors, and pity. He now stays at his estate, struggling to cope with his disabilities, his six inquisitive brothers, and running his large estate. His entertaining grumpiness, dry wit, and steadfast honor makes him the perfect match for Isabelle.
“I can’t send her home yet.”
“Because, she’s still missing her memories. The shock would be too great. She might return home and find her family nothing but strangers. Ask yourself what kind of man would leave a rare flower of that sort in a spot exposed to too much wind and rain.”
As Gervase and Isabelle spend more time together, their witty banter sparks powerful chemistry; drawing him and his family into Isabelle’s colorful abet crazy orbit.
“Lying is a sin.”
“So in grumbling overmuch.”
“I don’t grumble. I express my opinions in stately, measured tones.”
She not only enchants Gervase but his entire estate. From his blood thirsty five year old brother to the head groomsman, no one is safe from Isabelle’s charm or gentle manipulation.
The romance is very soft and dreamy in its reveal. As I stated earlier, there is no sex. Light kisses, stolen touches, and lots of scorching looks is about all you’re going to get but it works. Isabelle is a lady of breeding and Gervase is a knight of honor. He wants her as his wife and he’ll do nothing to sully her or his honor. Of course, that isn’t a problem once her brothers, Miles and Robin show up to offer advice, threats, and even more laughter. However, even they cannot not stop Gervase and Isabelle from engaging in some deliciously sweet flirting.
He shot Miles a warning look, then gathered her in his arms. “I will,” he whispered against her ear, “consent to be led about however you will if you’ll simply agree to look at me twice.”
“You will not.”
“You might be surprised.”
“I might be convinced to look at you more then twice, then.”
“We must elude them at our earliest opportunity.”
A Kurland story wouldn’t be a Kurland story if family didn’t get involved. And the de Piagets arrive in force to “rescue” Isabelle from the beast of Monsaert. Their infectious humor and demonstrative swaggering only adds to the overall appeal of the story. Miles and Robin arrive post haste, determined to protect Isabelle. Both decide to join her in her quest and make sure Gervase keeps his naughty hands and lips to himself. Jocelin, one of Gervase’s brother’s, provides much laughter as he protects Gervase’s back all while teasing him about his romantic intentions towards Isabelle.
“Lord Rhy’s is going to murder you.” Jocelin said thoughtfully.“But if I murder Guys at the same time, then I inherit the title. If I’m exceptionally clever, I might convince our lovely guest to look at me instead of you.” He smiled happily. “Life has a way of rewarding lads with good hearts, don’t you think?”
The main conflict is a light undercurrent that flows in and around the romance. Extremely low key, Kurland reveals clues sporadically until we arrive at the point of no return. Everything wraps up rather fast in that aspect. I felt that portion of the storyline failed a bit in it’s undramatic reveal. I had pretty much guessed who it was and the reasons why. There aren’t but a few reasons someone would try and kill a Lord. I did wish the conflict would have balanced better with the romance.
All in all, Kurland pens an enjoyable lightweight historical romance filled with humor, love, and a wee bit of mystery. Perfect reading for a lazy day. Each of her romances in this and her coordinating series can be read as stand alones as each storyline consists of a single couple finding their happily ever after. I believe, but am not one hundred percent sure, this in the 16th book in the de Piaget series and the 20th book in the MacLeod/de Piaget series.