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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Book Review - The Beltane Choice


I’ve had a fascination for the period when the Britons were fighting the Romans since my school days. I enjoyed the adventures of Wulf the Briton – as can be seen here.
Wulf the Briton - excerpts from 1958 and 1959 (Express Weekly)
A long while back I bought and read Spartacus and Agrippa’s Daughter by Howard Fast and The Eagle and the Raven by Patricia Gedge, but, apart from a few forays about Boadicca, there didn’t seem that many books about the Britons.

Now, The Beltane Choice, the first in the Celtic Fervour series, published by Crooked Cat, has reignited my interest after all the intervening years.

The story is told from the point of view of Nara, eldest child of Callan, Chief of Tarras, a warrior princess of the Selgovae, and Lorcan, an enemy Brigante prince.
As this is an historical romance, when the two main characters meet up, the sparks fly, as you’d expect from strong personalities. The book is a pleasure to read, for Nancy Jardine is in full control of her characters throughout. Her descriptions are visual and sensual, leaving just enough to the imagination. For example: Their heated kiss outside had stirred his blood, his want of her remaining strained against his braccae…

When the time of the Beltane rites arrived, Nara needed to have chosen a lover, which posed a problem, since none of the men in her village appealed to her. Still, that decision seemed to have been snatched away from her when she became a captive of …, who noticed that: Her breathing almost normal, his captive’s head rose to look up at him. Her stare softened – no more than a blink – but it was filled with some reasoning he could not quite interpret. Exactly what she thought, he did not know, but found he liked that new regard, liked it much better than spitting ire at him as an angry cat.
I like her writing style very much. We seem to be there, with her characters, as the description is so vivid: The track snaked across the ridges of the highest hills, the going more difficult above the tree line where the barren terrain lay open to the sky god, Taranis. Random lumps of greywacks littered the surface… The research is never too heavy or intrusive; just right. …The sun, now breaking through the clouds, made the recent downpour sparkle on the verdant green below, the heathers above the tree line a contrasting vibrant purple. The varying browns of the roundhouse wattles and thatched roofs contrasted with the grey-white smoke gently drifting upwards.

The contrast between her own father and Lorcan’s father, Tully, is strong, and telling. While Callan, her father, seems to hate her, Tully sees so much to praise in her: “Your heart is large, and you shield your pain well. I say now, that warrior’s mark you wear was well worth the branding, for you have more courage in you than many a man I have come across. And they generally do not have your compassion.”
Like all good romances, there has to be conflict, not only with the ubiquitous Roman cohorts, but also with fellow Britons. Nara’s road to love is a rocky one, strewn with tears and disappointment. But she’s strong, believing that ‘Work is an answer to a bleeding heart…’

Perhaps the fighting scenes could have been more graphic, but then again this is a romance; indeed, the restraint may garner more readers. I for one was captivated by Nara and have already purchased the sequel, After Whorl: Bran Reborn.
A shorter version of this review will appear on Amazon etc.

 

 

2 comments:

Nancy Jardine said...

Thank you, for such an inspiring review! (more battle scenes to come for you, if you've bought book 2 and then again...book 3)

Nik said...

A pleasure, Nancy. I look forward to reading book 2 - and 3 later in the year!