Friday, March 7, 2008

The Secret Swan by Shana Abe

Category: Romance
Series: No

At fifteen Lady Amiranth St. Clare became the bride of Tristan Geraint. She thought all of her dreams had come true – until she learned on her wedding day that Tristan had married her only for her bloodline. A week later, Tristan deserted her for the glories of battle. Heartbroken, Amiranth felt she’d been abandoned, not knowing that Tristan had become a prisoner of war – nor that he would one day return to the life he didn’t know he wanted until it was taken away.

Eight long years pass before Tristan finally comes home. A beautiful woman greets him in the garden, claiming to be Amiranth’s cousin. Yet somehow she seems hauntingly familiar, with an ethereal radiance that stirs him deep within his heart. Is she really his wife, grown into a lady of breathtaking beauty – or another woman who has awakened within him a passion he has never known? To discover the truth, Tristan must reveal the secrets of what happened those years he was away – and find the love that was closer than he ever imagined…

Lately, I seem to hanker for fairytale romances and this story appears to fit the bill. It combines the Ugly Duckling storyline with unrequited love, and love lost and found – some of my favourite themes in romantic fiction – and the whole saga takes place in medieval England.

I was fully immersed in the story from the first page. I loved the restrained yet evocative, heartfelt writing.

Opening lines of Chapter One:

It was going to be the most glorious day of her life.

Today, Lady Amiranth St. Clare was to become a woman. She was fifteen years old, and a bride.

His bride. Tristan Geraint, Earl of Haverlocke.

She had loved him for years already. It was deep and heady and thrilling, and completely without reason, she knew.

Amiranth had not told anyone of it, not even her cousin Lily, her most trusted friend. It was as if to share this feeling with anyone else – anyone – would tarnish it, turn it from shining silver to tin.

She did not dare risk that. It was too wonderful a suffering, too dear and delightful and agonizing to give up.

Amiranth had seen him her very first time at court, when she was just a child. Only nine years old, and the moment she picked him out from the line of squires lingering by a wall in the king’s antechamber she had felt it – her breathing stopped, her heart stopped, her entire existence … stopped.

The story has a stark feel to it, from the prologue till mid-way into the story. Tristan and Amiranth battle illness, hunger, antagonists and affairs of the heart as they journey to reclaim Tristan’s rightful inheritance. Their suffering is realistically portrayed, hence the bleakness, which moved me.

Tristan and Amiranth are good together. They are well-drawn characters who won me over and made me care about them. Amiranth, especially, is such a great character – very intelligent, calm, stoic yet extremely vulnerable when it comes to Tristan. Their happily-ever-after doesn’t come easy, but when it finally happens, it is moving and very satisfying.

I closed this book with a wistful sigh of pleasure.

4.5 out of 5. I really like it. It's fantastic, a keeper. Sensuality rating: Warm


Kristie (J) said...

I read this one years ago and don`t remember too much about it - except her heartache when she found out why he married her. I remembered that from your review. I think I`ll have to give this another read!

Jace said...

Kristie, Amiranth's torment and longing for Tristan was so moving ... she broke my heart. She suffered for so many years after he abandoned her at his remote and bleak home, all the while mourning his death, and fighting just to survive.

It was a wonder she didn't kill him when he finally showed up. LOL

Oh, do re-read it! I'd love to know how you feel about it years later.

I'm sure I'll be re-reading this book often too. :)

Jill D. said...

oooh Jace this one sounds really good. I love it when there is lots of heartache involved. It makes the happy ever after that much more satisfying, plus I am a sucker for medievals. I haven't ever heard of this one but I am adding it to my list!

Jace said...

Jill, there's lots of heartache involved in this story. :) But the writing is restrained and undramatic, so the heartache is kind of "implied", you know?

Let me give you an example:

This is just before Tristan rides off to war, leaving Amiranth, his fifteen-year-old new wife, behind.

Agnes had declined her help in the kitchens. It had become very clear, as Amiranth stood awkwardly next to the hearth, that she had no idea what to do, despite her husband's casual offering of her services. She could plan a menu with ease; enacting one was another thing entirely. The chatelaine appeared to take pity upon her, bidding her to sit, bringing her food, wine, as the grand new Countess of Haverlocke sat alone at the servant's table, hunched over her meal.


He would not even notice. She knew he wouldn't.

She had married a boy. A mere boy, not a man, despite his comely grown looks. A man would not disregard his wife so. Surely a man would not.

Gone in the morning. And she would be stuck here until he made up his mind to return.

Amiranth rolled over and clutched at a feather pillow, hugging it to her.

I am not sad, she thought, setting her teeth. I am not. Let him go.

Brie said...

Jace, you have sold me on this story. I love the premise of it and it sounds so heartbreakingly romantic. Plus, the writing- from what I can see so far- is captivating. I will be checking for this book at Amazon.

Brie said...

Oh, I just saw that Abe is the Author of this book, now it's a must buy. I love Shana Abe's writing.

katrin said...

after your review I'm glad I have this book already in TBR. now I'm looking forward to reading it.

Jace said...

Brie, I've fallen in love with Abe's writing too, since reading The Smoke Thief. :)

In fact, I went out today and bought her Truelove Bride, which I hope to read soon. ;)

Jace said...

Katrin! I didn't know you have this book in your TBR!!! I'd have loved to read it with you had I known. Anyways ... do let me know your opinion after you read it, ok?

katrin said...

sure, I'll let you know what I think.