The majestic seaside estate of Artane has been the foster home of Anne of Fenwyck for many years. It's become more home to her than her own father's keep and she loves her foster family, none more so than the eldest son, Robin, who has had her heart since childhood. However, Robin has been away warring for the past five years, leaving Anne wondering if he'll ever return home. Meanwhile her father has become eager to find her a suitable husband, but with Anne being lame in one leg from a childhood accident, her choices are not all that appealing. She tries to put her father off as long as she can, while hoping against hope that Robin might return and claim her as his own.
Between being humiliated by an older boy when he was a lad and knowing that he isn't the blooded son of the man who raised him, Robin de Piaget has felt he has much to prove. He has stayed away from his inheritance of Artane for far too long, striving to become the best swordsman in all of England. He fears returning home because he loves Anne, but doesn't know if she would welcome his suit and cannot bear being rejected by her. But when he hears of her father trying to marry her off, Robin finally comes back, hoping to win his fair lady. But little does he know that vengeful forces are plotting against them and pose a serious threat to both their lives. Even if he can stop them before they cause mortal harm to Anne and those he loves, will Robin ever be able open up to her and declare his love before she marries another?
I absolutely loved Another Chance to Dream, the first book (chronologically speaking) in Lynn Kurland's de Piaget series, so I've been looking forward to continuing this family's saga. If I Had You is the story of Rhys and Gwen's son, Robin, and Anne, the daughter of Geoffrey of Fenwick, a supporting character, who was introduced in Another Chance to Dream. Anne fostered with Rhys and Gwen, and their castle became more like home than her actual home. She and Robin grew up together and were the best of friends as children, until unbeknownst to Anne, Robin was humiliated by another boy, and after that, he became distant, leaving her thinking that she had done something wrong. Then Robin went off to war and has been away from home for five long years, during which Anne's father has become impatient for her marry. However, due to an injury she received as a child when a horse stepped on her leg, she's lame in that leg and walks with a pronounced limp, which is a detractor to most men seeking a wife. The only prospects he's put before her are considerably older and not the kind of men she'd want as a husband. In fact, the only man she's ever truly wanted is Robin. Now that he's finally returned home, she can't help wishing that maybe he'll consider marrying her himself.
Robin has loved Anne since they were children, but he's stubbornly stayed away all this time, not sure if she'd welcome his suit and unable to cope with the idea of being rejected. The humiliation he suffered as a child really did a number on him. He's also harbored feelings of inadequacy. Believing himself to be the blooded son of his mother's first husband and merely adopted by Rhys, he doesn't quite feel as if he deserves the honor of being named heir to the reknowned knight. As a result, he's driven himself to near madness to be the best knight in England, and he knows it (he can be a bit arrogant at times:-)). I wasn't quite sure, though, if I fully understood the motivation that drove Robin. Rhys and Gwen are amazing parents and Rhys never made him feel like anything other than a blooded son, and while being shoved into the mud by his rival as a boy was certainly an affront, he was only fourteen at the time and was still recovering from a serious illness. I just couldn't help feeling like he was way too hard on himself and in some ways perhaps over-blowing things a bit. Not to mention, even if it was unintentional, he was essentially punishing Anne for it by ignoring her.
When word finally reaches him that Anne's father is trying to marry her off, Robin immediately returns, but rather than declaring his love and trying to win her father's favor, he turns into a bit of a stubborn idiot. He argues with his lady and often gives her the cold shoulder, he fights with his brother when his brother tries to court Anne even though Robin hasn't declared any intentions toward her, and he stays in the same bedchamber with her to protect her when it becomes clear that someone is trying to harm her. And while the latter was sweet on some level, I could see the folly of that from a mile away. Not to mention, Robin is basically a clueless alpha male who doesn't really have a romantic bone in his body until the very end. While I was glad he finally found his romantic side, I wasn't quite sure where it came from, because he hadn't exhibited much inclination for it up until that point. Robin is a strong warrior who doesn't hesitate to defend his lady, and he does come around eventually on the romantic front, so in general, he was a pretty good character. But I simply never fell in love with him the way I have with so many other romance heroes or like I did with his father, Rhys.
In many ways, Anne was nearly as stubborn as Robin. She spends a long time believing that Robin doesn't care about her one whit. In some ways that was understandable given her lame leg which makes her feel imperfect, and the fact that Robin, unromantic soul that he is, doesn't really show her much in the way of affection to give her any hope of a future between them. However, she doesn't seem to have any trouble arguing with him and speaking her mind in most cases, so I couldn't help but wish that she would do the same when it came to revealing her feelings for him. Anne wants nothing more than to stay at Artane, which has become a real home to her, and with her father pressuring her toward the altar, marrying Robin is really the only way to ensure that she gets what she wants on both counts. Yet she seems to simply sit back, waiting for Robin to make the first move and letting things happen rather than taking the bull by the horns so to speak. I know that's probably more realistic behavior for a lady in the middle ages, but since Anne was brave and strong in so many other ways, I couldn't help thinking that sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do to win her man, especially when he's being as hard-headed as Robin was. In general, I liked Anne and sympathized with her on some level, but I didn't relate to her quite as well as I wanted to.
If I Had You boasts a plethora of interesting secondary characters, some of whom have other stories in the series. Of course, Rhys and Gwen are great parents to all their offspring of which there are now seven. Robin's brother, Nicholas, is basically the same age. They've been off fighting together all these years, and although they're like oil and water personality-wise, they always have each other's backs. I adored Nicholas. He must have gotten all of Robin's romanticism in addition to his own, because he's a consummate charmer. I very much look forward to reading his book, When I Fall in Love, which is the fourth in the series. But before his book, there's Robin's sister, Amanda's book, Dreams of Stardust. Amanda is a real spitfire, so it'll be interesting to see if I enjoy her story. I won't say that I disliked her, but she's even mouthier and more obstinate than Anne, so we'll have to see. Then the next-oldest brother, Miles, gets his story in the novella, "The Gift of Christmas Past" from the anthology, Love Came Just in Time. I also enjoyed Robin's grandmother who arrives with a cadre of courtiers to teach Robin chivalry, which was rather humorous. Then there are our villains, Baldwin, Edith, and Maude. Robin had a brief dalliance with Maude, and now she's playing the jealous shrew. Baldwin was the one who humiliated him when they were boys. Both he and Edith had rough upbringings but spent a lot of time fostering with Rhys and Gwen. However, rather than being grateful for finally being in a nurturing environment, they became greedy and vindictive, reaching above their stations. All the villains were sufficiently wicked, but I wouldn't have minded Baldwin and Edith being developed a little more fully as their motivations weren't entirely clear to me. I also felt like, in the end, they were dispatched a little too easily and conveniently.
Overall, If I Had You was a reasonably entertaining story, and although I might not have related to Robin and Anne in quite the way I would have hoped, they didn't exactly rub me the wrong way either. The main thing about them that I took issue with is that they spend more than half the story simply misunderstanding each other's words and actions, rather than having an adult conversation, which is far from being my favorite way to stir up conflict. I also couldn't help wishing there had been a little more actual romance. Our main couple don't even kiss until halfway into the story and they're basically forced into marrying rather than going to the altar willingly. I just couldn't help but become frustrated with both of them at times for their prideful, obstinate behavior. The romantic scenes were simply too few and far between. Not to mention, the lack of them made it harder to feel the emotional connection between Robin and Anne. Lynn Kurland doesn't write detailed love scenes, only closed door implication, which in the last book wasn't really a detractor for me, but here it kind of was, mainly because there wasn't enough else to grasp onto to feel that connection. Late in the story, Robin and Anne finally come together, stop arguing, and share some tender moments, which made for a nice ending, so I can't really complain too much. From my criticisms, it might seem like I didn't enjoy this book, but overall, I did. Part of that is owing to Ms. Kurland being a strong writer who makes it easy to envision what's going on in the story, and there was enough else happening outside the romance to keep me engaged. It might not have been quite as good for me as the first book of the series, but If I Had You was good enough to be a respectable entry that I generally liked in spite of any perceived weaknesses.
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