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Crescent Blues Book ViewsImage:three and a half moon gifBantam Books (Paperback) ISBN 0-553-58354-9
If you haven't done so already, run -- don't walk -- to your nearest bookstore for your copy of Madeline Hunter's The Protector. This engrossing book arrived just in time to rescue me from a dreary, rainy afternoon. I read it straight through in one sitting, ignoring the whines of my three bored children, who eventually got the hint and put on a video.

Book: Madeleine Hunter, the protectorSet during the reign of England's Edward III, this fourth volume of Hunter's late medieval historical romances broadens the horizon to encompass the fiercely independent duchy of Brittany, a craggy penninsula torn apart by civil war, as two factions vie for succession to the ducal crown.

Those who read Hunter's first book, By Arrangement, will find a treat in The Protector's hero, Morvan Fitzwaryn, the disenfranchised English knight errant and older brother to the heroine in By Arrangement. At the end of that book, Morvan rode with Edward's army to fight in Normandy, but he chose not to return to court with his king. Instead, he turned to earning his living by his sword. However, as The Protector opens in the year 1348, a graver danger faces Morvan -- the plague known as the Black Death.

Anna de Leon, an unconventional Breton warrior beauty, rescues and takes in Morvan and his band of knights. Originally, bound for the convent, Anna nurses Morvan back to health from the brink of death. During her ministrations, Morvan finds himself drawn to her unique strength and self-possession and swears to protect her. When he regains his strength, Anna dismisses his oath as unnecessary. But in the man's world of the late medieval ages, Anna walks a fine line dictated by circumstances and luck.

Unfortunately for her, both circumstance and luck turn against Anna when Gurwant de Beaumanior arrives with an army to attempt to claim her strategically important coastline estate. Reluctantly, Anna accepts Morvan's offer of assistance to retain her family's lands. Thus, two fierce and independent spirits find themselves engaged in combat both within and without. The battle lines take them across both Brittany and the English Channel to England and back again before their hearts find a settled peace.

Book: Madelein Hunter, by arrangmentMadeline Hunter creates two incredible protagonists, both of whom lead precarious lives when it comes to maintaining one's foothold in late medieval society. Morvan is a landless knight whose struggle to regain his familial lands from the Scots no longer interests his king. The fiercely independent female warrior Anna finds herself trapped in a patriarchal society that views such displays of female prowess not as a strength, but as proof of a woman's inherent instability. With these great leads, The Protector draws you in from page one and never lets go until the very last page. The book leaves the reader in that unique paradox of excellent writing -- satisfaction combined with an intense craving for more.

Kassie Walters

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