The theme: A recommended read.
Why this one: One of my oldest TBR books; it was mentioned in the paperbackswap forums as an underrated classic. I’ve been intimidated by it — longish scary Medieval! — but I’ve felt like I have my historical mojo back, so it seemed like the time.
Favorite line: “God’s blood, if this isn’t the last thing I needed to find out today, that I am sire to some half-lunatic Sir Galahad.”
Like many good Medievals, Winterbourne is a story around power. I have a theory that Medievals fell out of favor because many readers want their romance heroes to be at the absolute top of the power chain, and that doesn’t lend itself to stories like this one. Our hero is indeed a rich and mighty warrior… but king John is royally pissed at him, and it really didn’t pay to upset the king. Although he accidentally brings Jaufre and Melyssan together at the start — she pretends to be Jaufre’s wife to escape John’s lascivious attentions — his spite and malice also frequently separates them and causes them great suffering.
There’s also internal conflict to the story, because although Jaufre can take a severe whipping without a sound, he becomes a petulant child when faced with his own emotions. After being betrayed by his first wife, he finds it hard to trust Melyssan, and fears losing his heart again; Diana Palmer-style, his guilt over treating her badly just makes him treat her worse. As old skool epic romance heroes go though, he’s practically a saint — i.e. no rapes, brutality, or infidelity.
I found this easier to read than I expected, though it definitely has some meat on its bones. Jaufre is a bit irritating, but does have a satisfying redemption arc.