Rhys de Piaget is a brave and noble warrior who won his knighthood at the tender age of fourteen. He's determined to live by the all knightly virtues, most particularly chivalry, but was born a commoner with no land or title. No matter how good of a man or how skilled of a swordsman he is, he knows he isn't considered good enough by society's standards to win the hand of the titled lady who captured his heart when he was just a lad and who he hasn't been able to get off his mind since. But it won't stop him from trying everything in his power to make her his.
Gwennelyn of Segrave has been a headstrong lass since childhood, when she chose the young Rhys to be her champion against a youthful tormentor. She's a lover of the minstrel's tales, wanting to be swept off her feet by an epic love, and the man she's fallen for is none other than Rhys. But no matter how much she wishes to marry him, the reality is that she's betrothed to another and will soon have to honor that commitment regardless of where her heart lies.
Throughout the next sixteen years, Rhys and Gwen must weather through the storms life has in store for them, putting their love to the ultimate test. But with a little perseverance and a whole lot of patience, they may finally be given the chance of which they've dreamed for so long to live out the desires of their hearts.
Another Chance to Dream kicked off my 2017 reading with a bang. I'd never read anything by Lynn Kurland before, but I'd heard good things about her. Still, recommendations aren't always a sure-fire indicator that I'll like the author's work, but in this case, everything I'd heard was definitely true. Without a doubt, this author knows how to write a truly romantic story that made my heart do flip-flops. Even though she keeps her narrative pretty PG-rated and I typically prefer my romances steamy, it wasn't a detractor for me. Ms. Kurland is now one of only a handful of authors who write in this less-explicit style that I can genuinely say I thoroughly enjoy. I also haven't been reading many medieval romances lately, so this was a very welcome reintroduction to the time period. I'm very excited to have found a new-to-me author who's a skillful enough writer to keep me on the edge of my seat with some action and adventure, while also keeping me guessing as to how the hero and heroine will overcome the obstacles in their path to finally get together, and at the same time, gives me the strong emotional connection that I crave in romance.
Rhys is a prince among men, exactly the kind of hero who can make me swoon. He's definitely more a beta where his lady and her children are concerned - sweet, gentle, kind, and basically wears his heart on his sleeve. But he's no pushover. He's a skillful swordsman, who won his knighthood at the tender age of fourteen and is known far and wide for his victories in battles and tournaments. He's also earned the respect of the men under his command with his fierceness and fairness. Rhys takes his duty as a knight very seriously, deeply prizing the knightly virtues of honesty, gallantry, and most of all chivalry. Even though societal norms won't allow a mere knight with no land or title to wed a titled lady, he's determined to have Gwen no matter what he has to do or how long it takes. It was so sweet that he even saved himself for her, not wanting any other woman in his bed. Despite years apart and her forced marriage to another man, Rhys never stops loving her and won't stop trying everything he can to win her hand for himself. Beyond loving Gwen, he also loves and accepts her children as his own, treating them the way a father should. How could a romance reader not fall in love with a hero like that?
Gwennelyn was a headstrong lass from a very young age. When she meets Rhys at the mere age of nine, she demands that the vaunted knight champion her against her enemy, another young man who locked her in the pigsty. When he did as she asked, she fell in love with him on the spot, giving him her favor like any good lady would. When she finally met up with him again five years later, she pursued him all over her father's keep, trying to get him alone so she could declare her love, while he, of course, was trying to avoid her because he knew he couldn't have her. But Gwen giving voice to her tender regard for him is what set Rhys on his determined path to earn enough gold to bribe the right people into giving him land and perhaps a title so he could marry her like they both wanted. Gwen's courage never faltered through all the things she had to deal with during the years they were apart, nor did her love for Rhys either. She was a fierce protector of her children as well. Gwen was more than a worthy match for Rhys, strong without being annoying and loving and kind without being overly sentimental.
There are a number of strong and beautifully drawn secondary characters as well. Montgomery and the Viking twins, Connor and Jared, were instrumental in Rhys training as a young knight. They're loyal to a fault and look out for Gwen while Rhys is away. They're also good for some laughs. Gwen's children, Robin and Amanda, as well as Nicholas, another little boy the same age as Robin, whom Gwen insists they take in, are cute as buttons. Their speech is perhaps a bit advanced for their ages, but undeniably adorable. The little boys are well on their way to becoming gallant knights themselves, while Amanda is a charmer who has no trouble wrapping Rhys around her little finger. The next three books in the De Piaget series are about these three all grown up. Rhys's family, his grandfather and his mother, an Englishwoman who ended up in a convent in France, are full of surprises. Gwen's mother is always the calm voice of reason. Geoffrey, Gwen's childhood tormentor who's now sweet on her, is also good for some laughs. Gwen's brother-in-law, John, pledges his loyalty to her and Rhys, becoming Rhys's squire. Last but certainly not least are the dastardly villains, Gwen's husband, Alain, and his brother, Rollan. Alain can be deliberately cruel but isn't very smart, relying on Rollan to be the brains for both of them in their sordid schemes, which thankfully don't entirely succeed.
Another Chance to Dream is a skillfully written story that never lets up on the conflict, keeping the reader wondering how an HEA will ever be possible. There's the long-standing question of how the gallant knight will win the hand of his lady fair without land or title, but all throughout there are smaller conflicts that arise as well. Unlike a similar story I read recently, which also had a lot of conflict, this one was done better IMHO, because the conflicts are not of the hero's and heroine's own making (eg. stubborn misunderstandings). It always come from an outside source, with each one being resolved within a reasonable time frame before the next one arises. Rhys and Gwen also never stop having faith in one another and their love endures despite the odds. Theirs is an epic love story that begins with them as children and finally culminates with their HEA some sixteen years later and what an HEA it is. In the end, Rhys's determination pays off in ways he never could have imagined, giving him everything he's always dreamed of and more. And that's how I felt as a reader too. Another Chance to Dream was everything I could have wished for in a romance, and then some, and I can't wait to continue with the De Piaget series to see what's in store for Rhys and Gwen's children.
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