Urien Fitzroy was born a bastard, and with no one to genuinely care for him, he fell in with a band of mercenaries as a youth. He's been living that life ever since, but after working for an unscrupulous man, he's decided to try turning over a new leaf. He's heard of a wealthy lord who is in need of soldiers, so he goes there in search of a job. As it turns out, Lord Gervais remembers Urien from a tournament in which he competed and was impressed with his skill. He hires Urien to train his squires for an upcoming tournament and if he does his job well, he'll have a permanent place at his castle. Urien also meets Lord Gervais' foster daughter, and although they don't get off on the right foot, he eventually gets to know her and their friendly banter begins to turn into something deeper. But Urien knows he's not good enough for Fritha and before he can earn a better position to perhaps vie for her hand, his plans are derailed by Lord Gervais' jealous wife.
Fritha Kendrick lost her mother at a young age and was sent by her father to foster with Lord Gervais, where she has become like a daughter to him and has also earned the love and respect of all the villagers. Lord Gervais has been patient with Fritha, allowing her the opportunity to choose her own husband. When she meets Urien, things don't initially go well, but before long, he's won her over and she wants nothing more than to marry him. Even though he isn't a knight, Lord Gervais respects him enough to allow the match, but the young Lady Gervais has always been jealous of Fritha and is determined to prevent her from finding happiness. Fritha and Urien decide to wait until after the tournament to tell Lord Gervais about their desire to wed, allowing Lady Gervais the time she needs to put her machinations into action. When they discover their enemy's plan, Urien tries to persuade Fritha to run away with him, but she is equally determined to stay to protect the villagers from the evil plans she knows Lady Gervais will spread once she's gone. But will Urien ever be able to understand and support her when he's never experienced the love of a family and friends before?
A Warrior's Quest is the second book in Margaret Moore's Warrior series. This one is about Urien who was a mercenary working for the villain in the previous book, A Warrior's Heart, but before the end of the book, he turned over a new leaf and went straight. He now finds himself in the village of Bridgeford Wells where he's heard a wealthy lord in need of soldiers lives. As it turns out, Lord Gervais remembers him from a tournament they both attended and was impressed with Urien's skill, so he hires him to train his squires for an upcoming tournament he's hosting. Urien has one month to whip the boys into shape and if he's successful, he'll have a permanent place among Lord Gervais' soldiers. Upon arriving in town, Urien also meets Lord Gervais' lovely foster daughter, Fritha, but because she dresses plainly and mingles among the townsfolk like she's one of them, Urien doesn't initially realize who she is. They don't get off on the right foot, but as they get to know each other better, their friendly banter begins to turn into something deeper. However, Urien is just a nobody, a bastard who hasn't even earned a knighthood and doesn't expect to, while she's a lady. Then there's also Lord Gervais' young wife who is jealous of Fritha and the devotion she seems to inspire among the people. She, along with a few of her cronies, stir up trouble for our lovebirds that could not only tear them apart, but also endanger Fritha's life.
Urien is a bastard who never knew his father, and after his mother died when he was small, he went to live with a local farmer. The man never treated him well, so when he was old enough to fend for himself, he ran away with dreams of becoming a soldier. He eventually took up with a band of mercenaries and has lived that life ever since, which is how he came to be in the employ of the villain in the previous book. However, he ultimately turned on his employer and helped the hero of that story. So now he finds himself in need of new employment, which is how he comes into Lord Gervais' service and meets Fritha. Although he knows he isn't good enough for her, he can't seem to resist her until he finds himself falling in love with her. At first things are going well and he's making plans to ask for her hand, but when trouble finds them in the form of Lady Gervais, it may mean the end of their romance.
I really struggled to like Urien. I truly wanted to, and once he knows who Fritha is, he treats her pretty well, but there are several things he does that tarnished his heroic veneer for me. When he first meets Fritha, he propositions her, and during a later encounter comes on strong enough that she felt the need to knee him in the groin. Admittedly he didn't know who she was yet, but for him to treat any woman that way didn't endear me to him right out of the gate. Later on, within days of leaving Fritha, he jumps into bed with a prostitute, thinking she'll help him forget Fritha. In the end, not much happened between them, because he finally got a clue, but for him to even think that in the first place, kind of sullied what he'd supposedly had with Fritha. I also don't think his backstory was brought out into stark enough relief for me to fully understand how he felt either, and as a result, some of his actions seemed selfish and overblown. I understood that he had a rough childhood and had never known the love of family, but rather than trying to understand Fritha's love for, not only her foster father, but also the townspeople she considers her family, and perhaps embracing them as his own as well, he abandons her, even when he knows she's in danger, which was not a heroic action. Of course, he returns just in the nick of time, but by then I'd lost some respect for him. However, the most troublesome thing to me was his deep, dark secret, which wasn't all that sympathetic to me. Granted, as an untrained lad, there was probably not much he could have done against several, large, full-grown mercenaries, but for him to just stand by and do nothing at all, not even verbally protest, even if it had cost him his life, again wasn't heroic at all.
Fritha's mother died when she was young and her father sent her to foster with Lord and Lady Gervais, then basically forgot about her. For all intents and purposes, Lord and Lady Gervais became her parents and she loved them dearly. But Lady Gervais also passed on, and later Lord Gervais remarried to a woman who is outwardly sweet and demure but inwardly is a shrew. She treats Fritha like nothing but a servant, and jealous of her connection with seemingly everyone she meets, the young Lady Gervais sets about trying to make Fritha's life as difficult as possible. While most young women her age would probably have already been married off, Fritha is particular about wanting a man she can love and trust, and Lord Gervais cares for her enough to not pressure her. However, Lady Gervais is eager to get rid of her as soon as possible. Then Fritha meets Urien and soon falls in love with him. Although it seems that his background would make it impossible for them to marry, she's adamant that she doesn't care about his past and believes that Lord Gervais respects her and likes Urien enough to allow the match. But Lady Gervais is determined to not allow Fritha any happiness, and when the couple decide to keep their romance a secret until after the tournament is over, it allows Lady Gervais enough time to formulate a plan to get back at them. When Lady Gervais makes her machinations known, Urien wants Fritha to run away with him, but in spite of her life being in danger, she stands her ground, knowing that the lives of other people she loves could be at stake as well. Overall, I liked and admired Fritha. She's loved by all the people, both in the castle and the village. She's kind and caring, always interested in helping them with their problems and she's incredibly efficient and energetic in managing the household. She's very forgiving toward Urien, not caring at all about his background or the things he's done in the past, but loving him for who he is now. She's also very selfless in her dealings with everyone, willing to forfeit her own life to keep others safe.
I went into reading A Warrior's Quest with high hopes that it would be a book I'd enjoy. It's the highest rated book of the series on GoodReads. I'd also previously read and enjoyed three other books by Margaret Moore, including the first in the Warrior series, to which I gave keeper status. I had a few uncertainties regarding Urien being a partially villainous character in the previous book, but when he chose not to do his employer's bidding in the end, I was willing to give him a second chance. But because of my aforementioned issues with his character, I didn't end up falling for him in the way I wanted to or feel like he redeemed himself very well. It's absolutely imperative that I like the hero of any romance for me to fully enjoy it, and perhaps because I had such mixed feelings about Urien, I also struggled with feeling a connection between him and Fritha, even though I did like her quite a bit. Their feelings for one another just seemed to come from out of nowhere with little in the way of genuinely romantic interactions between them up to that point. I admit, though, that as the story progressed, the emotional connection improved, right up until the black moment when they're torn apart. I couldn't help but be upset with Urien at that point, and was rather disappointed that Fritha takes some of the blame for their separation when he finally returns, when I didn't feel that she did anything wrong. Another thing I disliked about the story was the number of incidents of casual sexual harassment and assault that seemed to simply get brushed under the rug. I can handle this if it's not excessive and only the villainous characters are doing it, but there are a couple of incidents of heroic characters engaging in this type of behavior as well, which just didn't sit well with me. Some of the incidents didn't really seem to advance the plot either and were just there for filler, so therefore unnecessary.
Overall, A Warrior's Quest wasn't a bad story, and there were parts of it I did like, but there were enough parts that I didn't to drop it down into the OK range for me. I enjoyed the visit with Emryss (A Warrior's Heart) and his now squire, young Hu, who becomes the hero of the next book, A Warrior's Way. We're also introduced to Sir George, a seemingly charming knight, who becomes the hero of book #7, A Warrior's Bride. Even though this book didn't wow me, I'm sure I'll continue with the series at some point and look forward to seeing if these other men can become more admirable heroes.
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