By Madeline Hunter
Bantam Books (Random House Inc)  2000
ISBN 0553582216 - PB
Romance / Historical

Reviewed by: Rachel Hyde, MyShelf.Com 
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If you read an enjoyed Madeline Hunter's first novel By Arrangement which came out earlier this year then you will be eager to read the second in her trilogy of stand-alone novels about 14th century London.  Moira Falkener was born a serf but was freed several years ago by the old Lord who took her mother for a mistress.  Moira is used to living in some style as throughout her childhood and adolescence she was the "Shadow" to the beautiful Claire who married Addis de Valence, the new Lord.  But he is surely dead in the Crusades and now Moira looks after Addis and Claire's young son in her cottage and makes fine baskets for a living.  However, Addis is all too alive and comes back demanding his son and having seen what a beauty his wife's "Shadow" has matured into he wants her as well as tries to disprove that she is now a free woman.  But Moira is no meek peasant to stand for all
this and wants her freedom, her own home and her own man - but the trouble is she has loved Addis for years.

Set during the turbulent reign on Edward II and with a background of the strife England battled under this is a lively, sexy book.  I found in the earlier By Arrangement that the background was a bit too sketchy but in this book there is enough there to make the reader feel that she is in the 14th century but not so much that the romance is pushed aside. I felt this time that the romance took center stage as it ought to but it was backed by enough historical detail and action to give verisimilitude and excitement. Moira is an independent lady who knows her own mind (but does not protest all the way) and Addis likes to play the politically incorrect lusty lord so this is not one of those novels with twenty-first century characters in period costume.  Rather it has an authentic ring about the way the protagonists (and others) behave but not so much as to appear unsympathetic. At the back you can read excerpts of the earlier By Arrangement and the third book By Design which will be out in the spring to whet your appetite for more if reading this novel hasn't already done that - then there is the author's website to visit for more details about the books and 14th century life. Another satisfying slice of romantic escapism.

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