Juliana Garnett – “The Vow”

13 Oct

EDIT: Corrected the author’s name in the post title.

Garnett, Juliana - The Vow
GENRE: Romance / Medieval
PUBLISHED: Bantam Books, 1998

WHY THIS NOVEL: Jace recommended this author.

Sent by William of Normandy to quell a brazen Saxon rebellion, Luc Louvat believed his mission would be easily accomplished. For what foolish Saxon lord had any hope of triumphing against an army of seasoned Norman knights? But the great warrior was in for a shock..surprised first by the ferocious battle the wily old lord waged–and then by what he discovers when he meets his adversary face-to-face: no crusty, aging nobleman this, but an exquisite princess with a face as fragile as a flower–and a will as steely as the sword she wields. Suddenly Luc finds he’s waging a dangerous new war…aimed at the defenses of a fierce Saxon beauty who threatens to conquer his warrior’s heart.

The Vow is a leisurely told and subtle novel. The unifying element is of course the romance between Ceara and Luc. It marks the beginning and the end of the story. It also goes hand in hand with the suppression of the rebellion. But despite these clearly marked beginnings and endings, what happens in between seems only loosely connected and episodic in character. Reading The Vow was like watching a life unfold. The story covers quite some time and there is no rush between the major events.

Ceara and Luc meet when Luc is sent to end the rebellion. They soon realize they are attracted to each other although Luc is the enemy Ceara has vowed to hate and while Luc treats women well, he doesn’t like them because of his past experiences and is only interested in sexual relationships. Of course, Ceara and Luc are forced to spend time together and slowly, they fall in love with each other without descending into too much hate you-love you dynamics. Their love creeps up on them.

Along the way, there is a woman from Luc’s past who wants him for herself after he now is no longer just a mere knight (adding romantic conflict) and who shows up at Luc’s new castle together with Luc’s best friend. Then there is Luc’s brother who suddenly shows up and might or might not betray Luc again, Luc’s mysterious past, Ceara’s pet wolf, and of course the still simmering Saxon rebellion in the North with Luc and Ceara in the midst of it.

Ceara starts the novel as a young woman who accuses her father of cowardice because he swore fealty to William. After her father’s death, she can have her way. She’s a feisty package but despite that I never really understood why Ceara hated the Normans that much (beside her being a Saxon) I actually was okay with her. Her seemingly unfounded hatred of all things Norman might make her look feisty but she’s also a strong and often insightful woman. She knows what she wants and how to get it, and she isn’t chummy with everyone just because she’s the heroine:

“Do you dare risk being alone with me, my lord? I might be dangerous.”
Luc laughed softly at her testy tone. “You are most definitely dangerous. But I am a man who loves a challenge, unlike poor Giles. You have terrified the man.”
“Good. He is a spineless cur. I doubt he has ever used his sword for anything other than shaving, for he is as clumsy a cow as ever I have seen.”
“Nevertheless, you will cease tormenting him.”
“Why? It amuses me. And I have done nothing to him, save point out a few of his weaknesses. He will be a better man for it. You should thank me.” (79)

And for that I liked her. In addition, the story doesn’t gloss over the harsher aspects of war and rebellion and Ceara learns that not everything is as black and white as she believes at the start.

Luc has a past full of treachery (his father) and abuse. He starts the story as a mere knight. His order to crush the rebellion in the North is his chance to finally leave his tainted past behind and redeem himself. Luc’s determined to take it. He’s willing to deal fairly with those who swear fealty but he has no problems to take other, more drastic measures with those who don’t.

Even though I sometimes wished the romance and the rebellion plot would provide a more apparent focus for the story, The Vow is a well-written novel. I liked the way wolf imageries were used in the story, and I loved the way the characters talk and that characters were not always what they appeared (good/bad) to be. The Vow is a good medieval romance, especially because it creates a strong sense of history and atmosphere for that time.

Verdict: I liked it (4/5).

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2 Responses to “Juliana Garnett – “The Vow””

  1. Jace Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 1:24 am #

    Hey, a rating of 4 out of 5 isn’t bad … I’m relieved! 😀 I’ve had this book since like forever, had read it at least twice, and I just realized I had forgotten most of it by now. I feel a re-read coming up. 😀

    I really like Garnett’s sense of atmosphere – she gave her stories a great medieval feel. Her heroines are feisty yet sensible; her heroes macho yet enlightened. 😉 That’s why she’s one of my comfort-reads. 🙂

  2. Taja Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 11:03 am #

    Jace – I told you I liked it! There was no need to worry. And 4 out of 5 is good! *g* Let me know what you think after your re-read. And you’re totally right with what you said about Garnett in your comment. I especially loved the medieval feel of the story. I’m glad you recommended Garnett and gave me the opportunity to read her novels.

    Thanks!

    *on to The Scotsman now!* *g*

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