By Possession, by Madeline Hunter

2016-01-25-by-possession-by-madeline-hunter
On a recent trip to the beach, I picked up a battered copy of Madeline Hunter's 2000 novel By Possession from a Little Free Library. As longtime readers of the site know, I rarely read pre-Regency romance novels (I can't get fully invested in any sex scene when I'm wondering when the participants last bathed), but hey: I'd already finished the books I brought with me, and the price was right.

Set in 1326, By Possession is the story of Addis de Valence, a knight freshly returned from the Crusades, and Moira Falkner, one of his serfs. Addis is determined to reclaim the lands stolen by his usurping step-brother, but he keeps getting distracted by his unexpected attraction to Moira. Moira, on the other hand, has no intention of letting her heart rule her head—she may have been in love with Addis for years, but she is very aware of what she would throw away by becoming his mistress.

By Possession was... fine. Hunter obviously did a lot of research, she does her best to balance out historical reality with modern mores, and her characters have plenty of romantic chemistry. Unfortunately, I read Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror (a historical account of 14th century Europe) last summer, and it still has a strong grip on my psyche. The entire time I was reading By Possession, I kept thinking: none of this even matters, because in a few years most of these people are going to die of the plague. It wasn't quite as revolting as Jane Feather's Trapped At The Altar (there are no garlic-scented sheets, at least), but I was never able to shut my brain off and just enjoy the story, and I think that's what you need to fully appreciate a romance novel set in such a violent, unhappy time.
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Posted by: Julianka

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