Lady Roanna Westercott was orphaned as a child and reluctantly raised by an uncle. Wanting to be rid of her, her uncle betroths her to a man she barely knows and doesn't care for, but she feels it's her duty to marry him without question. On the journey to her new home, their party is stopped on the road by a scarred warrior who grabs her horse's reins and whisks her away to a misty glen. However, he doesn't harm her, and after only a short time and a memorable kiss, he returns her to her betrothed. But Roanna has already begun to feel something for this mysterious Welshman who also informed her that she must consent to the marriage for it to be valid. When she realizes what brutes her betrothed and his father are, she refuses to go forward with the wedding which gets her imprisoned in the tower. With the help of a servant, she manages to escape, intending to make her way on her own, but she and her cook are waylaid by outlaws and saved by none other than the man who previously kidnapped her. He offers his protection and later marriage, and even though these things weren't in Roanna's plans, she quickly finds herself enamored of the chivalrous warrior.
Emryss Delanyea has always been at odds with his cousin who is also Lady Roanna's betrothed. However, he kidnapped the lady as little more than a mischievous prank. Having recently returned from the Crusades with extensive disfigurement, he's given up on the idea of finding a wife, but when he meets Roanna, the outwardly fragile lady stirs something inside him with her quiet strength. When he later finds her on his land about to be harmed by thieves, he doesn't hesitate to offer her shelter and protection. Although marriage wasn't in his plans either, he soon finds himself falling in love with her. When it becomes clear that she's in danger from his cousin's schemes, Emryss offers her marriage, but because of his injuries, he fears it may be a marriage in name only. As they work through his physical issues, Emryss discovers that his actions have only further angered his cousin who continues to stir up trouble that could put both Emryss's and Roanna's lives in danger.
A Warrior's Heart is the first book in Margaret Moore's Warrior series and the first she ever published. It's the medieval story of Roanna, a Norman woman sent to Wales to wed a man in a arranged marriage, but that man's cousin, Emryss, kidnaps her as a sort of prank. During their short time together before he returns her to her betrothed, he begins to capture her heart and he also helps her find her voice by informing her that if she hasn't consented to the marriage, they cannot force her to wed. Once back with her betrothed, Roanna sees what cruel men both he and his father are, leading her to refuse the marriage. They, in turn, lock her up in the tower, but with a little help from a beloved servant, she manages to escape. However, they're accosted on the road by outlaws, and saved by Emryss who takes Roanna back to his castle and places her under his protection. Although he hadn't planned on ever marrying because of severe injuries sustained during the Crusades, he quickly finds himself falling for the lady, and soon proposes, partly for love and partly to keep her safe from his cousin's machinations. Unfortunately this only angers his cousin further, leading to lots of trouble and mayhem for our lovebirds. This is the second book I've read by the rather prolific Margaret Moore. Her previous book that I read was from a different series, and while I did mostly like it, it didn't quite make it to keeper status for me. Perhaps because of that, I went into reading A Warrior's Heart with slightly lowered expectations and ended up very much enjoying it with only a couple of minor quibbles, which I'll address shortly.
Roanna's parents died when she was a young girl, so she became the ward of an uncle who never loved or valued her. With him only offering a pittance of a dowry, it was difficult to find a suitable husband for her, but a Welsh baron finally accepted a marriage contract for his son, Cynric, in exchange for the connections she and her uncle could provide in the king's court. Roanna isn't particularly enamored of Cynric and actually finds him and his father to be cruel, but she feels it is her duty to do as she's been told, for to do otherwise would besmirch her honor. When Emryss kidnaps her on the road to her new home, she finds herself attracted to the scarred warrior who treats her with kindness. Roanna, like many women of the day, is illiterate, so when Emryss informs her of the need for her consent to the marriage, the wheels start turning in her head. Once she decides to do something, she is very determined to see it through, so even though she's imprisoned, she refuses to give in. With a little help from her friend and cook, Jacques, they escape, intending to run far away and find employment, but the outlaw attack lands them at Craig Fawr, Emyss's castle. Still Roanna only intends to stay long enough for Jacques to recover from his injuries, but when Cynric begins making demands, Emryss offers marriage, which she accepts since she's fallen in love with him. Roanna is the ideal mixture between a perfect lady and a woman who has a stubborn, determined streak and deep-running passions. She's not content to idly sit on the sidelines and simply watch as things happen, but she also has a softer, more reserved side as well. I never doubted her love for Emryss in spite of his extensive scars, and her actions at the end of the story in his defense showed that she has the heart of a warrior, too.
Emryss had a good upbringing with parents who treated him well and taught him what really mattered in life. In his youthful naiveté, he was persuaded to take up the sword and fight in the Crusades. It was an endeavor that lasted eleven years, because he was gravely wounded, and by the time he recovered, the rest of the soldiers had already gone home. So it took him a great deal of time to earn his way back. He lost his father when he was young and his mother died before he could return, leaving Craig Fawr completely in his hands. Emryss takes his responsibilities to his people very seriously, and takes it personally if anything happens to anyone under his watch. Although he was popular with the ladies before going off to war, his injuries have made him reluctant to marry because he doesn't believe he can fulfill his husbandly duties to produce an heir. When he sees Roanna on the road with Cynric, he intends only to rankle his cousin with an old Welsh tradition by kidnapping the bride. But in the short time he spends with her, he finds himself drawn to her. However, having a strong sense of right and wrong, he returns the lady to her betrothed. When she and her cook turn up on his land several days later, he doesn't hesitate to save them and take her back to his castle for protection, where he really starts falling for her. After his cousin begins making demands and posing a bigger threat, Emryss impulsively offers to marry Roanna himself. I love scarred heroes, and Emryss has some of the most extensive scarring I've seen in a romance hero, but for the most part, he doesn't let it get him down. He's the prefect mixture of a strong warrior and a man who can be kind, gentle, and vulnerable. He may have recklessly ridden off to fight in the Crusades, but he's an intelligent man who ended up seeing this warmongering for the mistake it was, and as a result, no longer wants anything to do with organized religion. I also appreciated that he respected Roanna as his equal. For all these reasons, Emryss is definitely going to rank well on my favorite heroes list.
I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed A Warrior's Heart. It's sweet, emotional, and romantic while also having plenty of action to keep the story moving along at a nice pace. I really liked both Emryss and Roanna and thought they were a well-matched couple. They both exhibit a great deal of care and concern for one another, and always have each other's backs. I only have two small complaints with regards to their relationship. The first is that they declare their love pretty early on, before they've really gotten a chance to know one another. I hadn't really felt a deep emotional connection between them yet, but I admit that it didn't take long after that for it to become apparent. The other is that much is made of Emryss's concern that he might not be able to perform in the bedroom because of his injuries, and yet when the time comes, everything goes off without a hitch and with very few details. However, these were minor complaints in an otherwise well-written and entertaining story. All of the supporting characters added plenty of flavor and two of them go on to get their own books in the Warrior series. Cynric's right-hand man, a mercenary named Urien turns out to have a conscience which he exercises before the end. He is redeemed to become the hero of the second book, A Warrior's Quest. Also a young shepherd boy named Hu who idolizes Emryss will be seen as a youth in the next book and then grows up to become the hero of the third book, A Warrior's Way. I had somewhat unintentionally put Margaret Moore's books on the back burner after reading my first one by her, but reading A Warrior's Heart has definitely reinvigorated my interest in her work. I look forward to continuing this series soon.
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