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Thursday, 21 October 2010

Review of Hostage of the Heart by Linda Acaster

As a man, Hostage of the Heart is not the sort of novel I would normally pick up. But, having read Linda’s other books, I knew what a good writer she is and was therefore prepared to give this a go.
Though clearly intended for the women’s market, this is a love story with so much more than mere romance going on right from the start. It is no surprise to me that the novel is fast paced, full of tension, both emotional and sexual, and tells a great story. The research has been done thoroughly so that the reader is easily lost in the medieval world of the Welsh border country around the time of the Battle of Hastings, when so much was happening.
The sense of threat felt by the heroine, Dena, is palpable and her confusion, heightened by her imaginings combined with misinformation, is always understandable. She is a courageous woman, whose faults arise from her upbringing and circumstances. Her emotions are portrayed with great subtlety and flair so that it is easy to empathise with her as one injustice is piled on another and she faces doubt and danger in a world that is rapidly falling apart around her.
The sexual tension between her and the hero, Rhodri, is very real as she journeys through fear, despair, loathing, terror, treachery and humiliation on the road to love. The passion is wonderfully expressed through the understated intimacy experienced by the lovers on their ride to self discovery.
Surrounded by lies and the politics of the age, Dena is forced to grow up very quickly as she suffers kidnap, betrayal, the blackening of her name, the threat of rape and death.
Rhodri, a fighting man as much as he is a lover, will find a place in the hearts of women readers with his strength, recklessness, courage and sheer male magnetism. Those who enjoy historical romance will find this book easy to pick up and difficult to put down.

Having previously interviewed Linda and reviewed her brilliant new novel, Torc of Moonlight, as the first review on this blog, I decided to ask her a few questions about this earlier book.

Tell us about Hostage of the Heart in a few sentences.
Hostage of the Heart is an historical romance set on the English/Welsh borderlands of 1066. The English fyrd (militia) has been raised to counter the threat from Harald Hardrada of Norway marching on York – one of the three decisive battles in October 1066 – so allowing the balance of power to shift between the English and Welsh. A local Welsh nobleman decides to retrieve land that is rightfully his, but the plan doesn’t quite go according to plan when he’s saddled with an English battle hostage whose kin consider her expendable and refuse to pay a ransom. It’s a novel about integrity.

How did you come to write this particular book?
I was selling a lot of short fiction, mostly to women’s markets, but didn’t know if I had it in me to write a longer length. I needed feedback. The Romantic Novelists’ Association in the UK runs the New Writers’ Scheme which offers just that, as long as a romantic novel is submitted, which meant I had to write one. I was not, and still aren’t, an enthusiastic reader of contemporary romance, but I like historicals as there always seems to be so much more plot, and Mediaevals offer plenty of room for adventure. I never did receive the critique I was after; the RNA passed it to a publisher. I got a contract and won that year’s award. Suddenly I was writing romance, which came as a bit of a shock.

If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?
Mildthryth. She’s a wise-woman, a herbalist, and a bit of a… well, I’d be giving the storyline away if I said any more. She’s the essence of a walk-on character who burst into a major role during the writing – not the sort of thing I allow to happen these days, at least not to that extent. The odd thing is, it’s not just me who has a soft spot for her. Not long ago I met a reader of the paperback who was keen to tell me the same. Now the novel is finding a new audience as an ebook I’m in conversation with a reader eager for me to write a prequel based on a short scene where Rhodri, the Welsh hero, castigates all women for an incident that happened to him while he was a battle hostage in the court of King Edward. Am I going to? Let’s say the idea is on the back-burner. I’ve more than enough to do at present. But I am tempted.

Buying & sample links:
Hostage of the Heart - ISBN 978-1452325828
       Amazon US Kindle page
       Amazon UK Kindle page
       Smashwords page (for Sony, I-Pad, etc)

First Chapter available to read on

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