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From Medieval Book Reviews
Her Warrior King
Her Warrior King by Michelle Willingham
by Michelle Willingham

Can a medieval Irish servant king and Norman bride find love amidst war?

Michelle Willingham's medieval historical romance Her Warrior King has dramatic and intimate romantic conflicts, superb characterization, and a suspenseful plot. A vivid internal and external landscape pits the heart against the circumstances of war, making both come alive for the reader.

Suddenly, Isabel de Godred's father has chosen a husband for her. Without even as much as seeing her betrothed, Isabel's father has the wedding all arranged in haste. As soon as she can design an escape, her plans are cut short. Here he comes, dressed in mid-covered rags and riding alone without servants and a sword drawn ready to cut down the weeding guests. Can this man really be a king? Even if he does take the breath away with his dramatic entry, he sure doesn't seem like any king! More like a savage barbarian! When her betrothed tells her the stakes involved if she does not marry, she knows that the pleasure of freedom can never be enjoyed for that price. Patrick MacEgan is blackmailed into marriage to the Norman lady Isabel by her father, but that doesn't mean he has to submit in all ways. She will NOT be a queen to his people! He has his tribe to consider first even if his body and heart begin to tell him otherwise. An Irish king and a Norman lady have been forced into marriage in war --- a marriage that might ruin them both. Can they somehow find a way to love when everyone plots against them?

Michelle Willingham's Her Warrior King combines brilliant characterization and romantic conflict. Isabel is a fantastic heroine. Forced into her role, isolated in almost captivity away from Patrick's tribe in her new Irish home, she has such courage and bravery. No one or no situation is going to get the better of her. Despite being rejected from her husband's bed, the brave Isabel does the hard work, the everyday work that it takes to build something great. Through Isabel, Michelle Willingham allows the reader to experience the drama and courage of the lives of medieval women and indeed perhaps women of all ages living during a time of war or occupation.

Through Patrick, Michelle Willingham allows the reader a glimpse into the conflicts and tensions with medieval kings and warriors. Patrick, the king of a conquered tribe, must keep the Norman occupying his land and his men from killing each other. They do not speak the same language and the slightest look or misunderstanding might provoke a slaughter. The dangers outside might even be greater and kill them all. In the midst of war with so many lives at stake, how can he ever consider his personal desires? Patrick is the true servant king. Michelle Willingham reaches into the very heart of medieval literature with its theme of the servant king, making it come alive in her characters' hearts and daily lives.

Putting Isabel and Patrick together was a brilliant move --- at heart they feel destined for one another on the deepest level but they must work hard to get their happily-ever-after --- and that very work that reveals their destiny and the depth of their love. Michelle Willingham has an expansive view of love, combining passion something so much more. Love isn't just about the desire of one man and woman. Their love expands outward to others and is, in fact, perhaps born from their compassion for others. At the same time, they have to work to discover themselves as individuals and their individual desire. These conflicts and balance between the individual and others arise naturally from the plot and characters she creates. Brilliant!

In her third book, one sees common characteristics in her writing in all three books. Michelle Willingham writes secondary characters that steal the reader's heart. In all three of the MacEgan books, her writing reveals the very soul of her hero and heroine, a soul wounded yet brave and full of inner passion. Michelle Willingham is a fresh, stunning new voice in medieval historical romance that will appeal to romance and medieval fans alike.

Publisher: Harlequin Historical (January 2008)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Medieval Book Reviews
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