Jamie Kilburn meets Gillian Harron when Gillian is 10 years old at her mother's funeral. He is inexplicably drawn to the pale young maiden, an attraction that grows when he meets her again 5 years later on the eve of her betrothal to the arrogant Arnaut DeBroze. Unfortunately, Jamie's grieving for his departed wife and feels disloyal for thinking her place could be filled by anyone else. He refuses Gillian's father's last minute offer for his daughter's hand, and Gillian is sacrificed on DeBroze's alter of cruelty while Jamie watches helplessly from afar.
That's as far as I got (page 184), because despite a plot which sounds good on paper, the pace is so sluggish and the two protagonists so....limp and dull that I gave up. Pages upon pages were spent on Gillian wasting away, struggling for life, dreaming herself out of her predicament. She is special, she is precious, she is beautiful, she is to be treasured. And we know this because every "good" person in the story makes her well-being their focus and mention many times just how wonderful she is and how much she means to them. She showed very little spunk or steel and Jamie's deliberate spurning of her for the sake of self-denial kept prolonging the endless nothingness.
The setting of Edward II's court would have been a fine diversion, had it consisted of more than constant references to the barons' discontent with Edward's boy toy Piers Gaveston, and Queen Isabella's equerry Roger Languille, who exists solely to be cow-eyed over Gillian and make her a wan, whispery object of passion for three men. She is probably the most boring "heroine" I've come across in romance or historical. Throw in far too many "'tis"es and "Nay"s, and you have a very stiff and lifeless book. 1.5 stars
A tale of passion so deep and true it could not be denied.