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Simon the loyal has vowed never to love, for love makes a warrior weak. His arranged marriage to a beautiful Norman heiress would be duty and no more. But more than duty stirs his blood when he first sees Ariane. She has known only coldness from men and a betrayal so deep it all but killed her soul. Wanting no man, trusting no man, speaking only through the sad songs she draws from her harp, Ariane comes to Simon an unwilling bride. They wed to bring peace to the disputed lands, but marriage alone is not enough. Simon must teach Ariane passion, she must teach him trust. And both must surrender to the sweet violence of love′s enchantment. . .or die.
Simon the Loyal must marry Ariane the Betrayed in order to bring peace to the Disputed Lands. The catch? A brutal rape and her people's betrayal (hence the name) have left her unable to love and with a unreasonable fear of the marriage bed. This conflict drives the plot, but it is unnecessarily belabored during the first quarter of the book when it could have been cleared up by Ariane's simply explaining the situation to the seemingly understanding and compassionate Simon. This is not the only cause for confusion in this romance of 11th century England: Characters are hard to distinguish, having such similar names as Ariane and Amber, Dominic and Duncan and equally similar mystical powers--whether they be Learned, truth seers or witches. Lowell hones her writing skills in the second half of the book, finally displaying the talent behind the eight million copies of her titles in print. Her characters come into their own once freed from the mantle of a wearying plot device. The love scenes sizzle, motivations are plausible and the story becomes engrossing. Out of confusion comes a love story which will no doubt leave Lowell's loyal readers satisfied.