Mystique, by Amanda Quick

>> Monday, February 10, 2003

Continuing with my reread of Amanda Quick's books, it was Mystique's turn this weekend.

"Lady Alice approached the fearsome Warrior who had swept into Lingwood Manor like a storm. Dark and forbidding, with hair as black as midnight and eyes of molten amber, Hugh the Relentless seemed aptly named. Yet to Alice, adept at driving off suitors and handling her insufferable relatives, Sir Hugh was not someone to dread, but the answer to her dreams.

He had come for the mysterious green crystal, and would be greatly displeased to learn that it was no longer in her possession. But Alice was certain Sir Hugh could be coaxed into a deal that would benefit them both. In return for a dowry large enough to free Alice and her brother from the grasp of their conniving uncle, she would lend her powers of detection to Sir Hugh's knightly skills and together they would recover his treasured stone.

With a tongue as sharp as a dagger, the flame-haired Alice filled Hugh with fury...and a growing fascination. He accepted her terms, with one alteration: Alice must agree to a temporary betrothal and spend the winter in Hugh's great stone fortress, Scarcliffe Keep.

The bargain is struck and the adventure begins. But Sir Hugh's lifelong enemy is plotting against them, stirring up a whirlwind of treachery that threatens their fragile alliance."

Having just finished Wicked Widow, reading Mystique made it very clear to me what it is that's lacking in Quick's more recent work. Hugh and Alice share a closeness and emotional intimacy that Madeline and Artemis in WW just didn't have. This is exactly what I'm missing now.

This is a very light Medieval and like her one other book in that genre, Desire, it barely touches on the violence and grittiness of the period. It's quite cozy, with almost no traipsing around. In fact, a big part of the book describes the process of improving Scarcliffe Keep. This makes the book develop at a leisurely pace, and was something I enjoyed. I'm surprised I like this type of thing. I absolutely hate housework of any kind, but I always love to see the process in books.

I loved Hugh, especially how he gives Alice authority and supports her decisions, even when he doesn't agree with them, and then he doesn't try to punish her for it. He's a strong enough man that he doesn't mind appearing to give way to before his wife in front of his men, and I found that very attractive.

Alice I liked too. She's strong and intelligent (she's pretty much the one who solves the mystery) and a perfect match for Hugh. I loved the scene where she comes to his rescue at the fair, demanding the troubadour change his song! This book receives an A- from me.

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