Sir William of Miraval is a brave knight who was blinded by a blow to the head during battle. Ever since, he's been a shell of his former self, spending his days wallowing in self-pity and feeling as though he's now useless. When his father, Lord Peter, hears of a blind noblewoman at a nearby castle who doesn't seem blind at all, he goes to see if she might be able to teach his son how to function in the new circumstances in which he finds himself. To Peter's delight, she agrees to return to Burke castle with him, where they pretend that she is the newly hired housekeeper. Quickly whipping the castle into shape and keeping it running smoothly, she also starts to work on William as well, showing him how he can do things if he tries and that he's not useless at all. He begins to fall for the feisty woman, but when he discovers her and his father's deception, will he be upset with them for it? And what of an old friend who has now become an enemy?
Lady Saura of Roget lives a life of servitude in her step-father's house, where she isn't valued despite being the one who runs the castle. So when William's father comes, offering her a chance to escape and go somewhere she'd truly needed, she jumps at the chance. Once at Burke, she deftly perceives all that both the castle and its master need. Just as she's beginning to get through to William and make him feel useful again, they go on an innocent outing together and find themselves kidnapped. William soon discovers that their captor is none other than a man who he thought was a friend, but he's not the mastermind behind the plot. Although William and Saura manage to escape and make their way back to Burke, the danger is still ever-present. William thinks that they may be able to draw out the culprit at their wedding celebration, but when he doesn't listen to Saura instincts, it could spell doom for their new marriage.
Candle in the Window is the first book in Christina Dodd's Castle Duet. It's also the first book she ever published and the first book of hers that I've read. It's a medieval historical romance about a brave and noble knight named William who was blinded from a blow to the head during battle. Ever since, he's been a shell of his former self, stewing in self-pity and feeling useless. Desperate to find a way to reach his son, William's father, Lord Peter, visits nearby Pertrade Castle, where he's heard a blind young woman who doesn't seem disabled at all resides. Lord Peter is impressed with the lovely Saura, and when she agrees to help, he persuades her stepfather to allow her to return to his estate of Burke to act as their housekeeper. There she whips both Burke and William into shape, drawing him out of his doldrums. As they work closely together they begin to fall for one another. But an enemy lurks outside the castle walls, lying in wait, and when William and Saura go on an outing, they find themselves kidnapped. They quickly discover that their captor is none other than someone William thought was a friend. However, he's not the mastermind behind the plot. The pair manage to escape and make their way back to Burke, but the danger still awaits them. Before they can figure out who might harbor ill will toward them, he strikes again, but not before William asks Saura to be his bride. William will get the chance to conquer his enemy, but first he must conquer Saura's heart and her uncertainties about their future in order to convince her that they're meant to be together.
Saura has been blind since birth, but her mother insisted that she be treated no different than an able-bodied person. As a result, she can run a castle with precision and gets around in familiar surroundings without help. But in spite of this, her cruel stepfather views her as useless and resents not being able to marry her off. When Lord Peter comes with his offer of a secure place to stay in exchange for helping William and returning order to his own castle, she's eager to get out from under her stepfather's thumb. She becomes an efficient mistress at Burke and gives William a metaphorical kick in the seat of his pants to get him to see that he still has much to offer the world. She also teaches him how to navigate the world as a blind person. Gradually she begins to fall for the proud warrior, and while in close quarters during their kidnapping ordeal, they give in to their passion prompting William to offer marriage. But when events change the dynamic in their relationship, Saura fears that as a blind person herself, she has little to offer him in return. Still, during their wedding celebration, she uses her keen sense of hearing in an attempt to ferret out their enemy, but when the stubborn William doesn't agree with her choice of suspect, she once again feels like she's unvalued. After their adversary kidnaps her a second time, though, she finally gets a chance to shine. Overall, I liked Saura but I couldn't help feeling that her characterization was uneven and there were times when her convoluted thinking didn't make much sense to me. She begins the story as a strong, confident woman who has learned to navigate the sighted world as a blind person, and I loved how she gave William exactly the push he needed to rise out of his depression. But when William asks her to marry him, she suddenly becomes filled with insecurities and self-doubt that I didn't fully understand even when it was finally explained. Also although William declares his love for her a number of times, she resists reciprocating, which also didn't make a lot of sense to me, because IMHO, most women would be thrilled to have a man be so demonstrative of his affection. So while she was a generally likable character, she could also be quite confusing at times.
William is a widower with a young son and a brave and noble knight who's never known aught but running Burke and slaying his enemies on the battlefield. So when he loses his sight, he also loses his way. When his father brings Saura back to their castle, he sometimes finds her amusing, while at others infuriating. After he eventually discovers that she's a young woman and blind like him, he gains a great deal of respect for her, while also falling in love with her. Together, they make a formidable team when they're kidnapped, and even before he makes love to her during that time, he knew he wanted to marry her. However, when he declares his love and asks for her hand, Saura's insecurities start to come out, leaving William at a loss for how to get her to believe that he truly loves her and wants a future with her. Of course, their enemy is still out there just waiting to strike again, too, and eventually William gets the chance to do battle with him to save his lady fair. William is basically a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy, a warrior and a man's man type of hero. I found myself having somewhat mixed feelings about him. On the one hand, he's the first to declare his love for Saura and keeps pressing his suit with her, which is something I liked very much. However, I couldn't help wanting him to be a little more vulnerable. We finally get a scene at the very end, where he is quite vulnerable, but I would have liked a little more of that woven throughout. Then there are a couple of scenes where he skirted perilously close to the dreaded forced seduction (one scene arguably was) and a few times when he makes some very off-color statements regarding women. There's also a scene where he slaps a female servant in the face, and while she arguably deserved it, I loathe seeing a man raise a hand to a woman for any reason. I know all this was probably more historically accurate, but these moments just felt misogynistic to my modern sensibilities. While I can appreciate being factually correct, I appreciate even more the fantasy of romance and prefer for it to not be quite this realistic. So while he didn't drive me crazy like some romance heroes have, William had both good points and bad points.
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