Celestia Montehue has inherited special healing powers from the maternal line of her family. It comes with a glitch. The year is 1192, witch hunting abounds in England and she can only marry for love or risk losing her gifts.
Nicholas Le Blanc is a soul-sick Crusader who escapes from his captivity in Tripoli. He wants redemption and forgiveness from God for losing the sacred relic of Saint James the Apostle. And the other matter of murder, as well.
Forced to marry and move to Falcon Keep, which is haunted by Nicholas’ mother, they must learn to love one another before their family’s curses doom them for eternity.
This book screams, "Read me!" You've got a woman with special powers, a man who has lost a sacred relic--who just happens to have committed murder--and force them to marry and learn to love each other.
I was curious, not only about Nicholas, but about the sacred relic of St. James the Apostle that he lost, and asked Traci to tell us a bit more about this troubled hero. Here's what she had to say:
In Love’s Magic, Nicholas Le Blanc is a dark and tortured hero. On a crusade for the greater good – he’s charged with bringing King Richard the sacred relic of Saint James the Apostle. The caravan Nicholas is leading is ambushed, leaving him the only survivor. King Richard believes, as did King Henry before him, that collecting sacred relics will help win the battle against the infidel and keep the Holy Land safe.
Nicholas, raised a bastard child at Crispin Monastery, has sworn his allegience to Baron Peregrine. He prays for either a dignified death or a chance to avenge his men as he waits for his liege to pay his ransom. The money never comes, and in the meantime, he is being tortured and abused by his captor’s wife. She needs a dark-haired babe before her husband sets her aside, and she feeds Nicholas opium to get her way. When she puts a knife to Nicholas’s throat, he perversely decides he’s not ready to die after all. She whispers that the Baron didn’t pay the ransom – he was the one who had hired her husband to kill everyone on the caravan in the first place. Enraged, Nicholas wrestles the knife from her hand and plunges it into her heart. Guilt eats at his soul, just as the opium he’s addicted to gnaws at his spirit.
Reared to love God above all else, his loss of faith is the deadliest of blows. He breaks free of his prison and makes his way to England, living only to bring the baron’s head to Saint James the Apostle in Spain in exchange for the lost relic. Home is the Crispin Monastery, and the abbot takes him in – then sends word to the baron that Nicholas is barely alive.
Baron Peregrine breaks his oath to the Montehue family – an oath about not forcing the daughters to wed, of all the stupid things, and tricks Nicholas into marriage. Nicholas, after embarrassing himself in front of the odd-eyed healer, comes around to find he is the legitimate child of Baron Peregrine, the man he’s pledged to kill. He tries to escape his ‘father’s’ plan by slipping away into the night, but he’s caught by Sir Petyr and told that he owes Celestia, the healer, his life – and if Nicholas doesn’t marry her, then she will hang for witch craft. Guilt plays his concious like a lute, and he stays to exchange vows. But not before embarrassing himself again by tripping into her herbal garden. She’s kind. He doesn’t want to like her, but he does. He sees her strength, for all her petite size, and he notices – against his will – her own vulnerability. A true knight with honor bred into his bones, he has to help her – and fight his traitorous body’s desire. He makes deals with himself, knowing that his true mission is to kill the baron, save Celestia’s brothers, set Celestia up at the keep he’d just inherited from his mother on the edge of the English/Scottish border, and then get to Saint James and beg forgiveness for losing the relic. Then, if he somehow survives it all, come back and win Celestia’s love.
It’s a plan.
And things go wrong every step of the way.
Nicholas is put into the position of leading another caravan. A caravan where the men are wearing Baron Peregrine’s colors – the man he MUST kill to avenge the wrongs done in Saint James’s name.
He doesn’t dare sleep because of the nightmares – demons plague him, but he doesn’t want anyone to know and he’s afraid he’ll say too much in his sleep. Celestia offers to help, and it takes all of his self-control to keep her away. She consistently proves her loyalty to him by covering his mistakes, but he knows better than to let down his guard. He has the scars all over his body to prove how treacherous women can be.
The caravan is attacked, and Nicholas panics – his first concern is for the wife he’s been trying to ignore. He turns and sees her, a veritable goddess Diana astride her white mount, launch an arrow into the woods. He could love her.
They arrive at Falcon Keep, which is a falling down pile of rock and far from the home they were expecting. He knows that he can’t leave Celestia at the keep alone, and he resents the forced closeness they’ll have to share so that she’ll be safe. How can he keep her at arm’s length when he wants her with every fiber of his being? But he can’t have her. He has to kill the baron if he ever hopes to save his soul from eternal damnation – maybe God will start listening to him once he makes amends.
Murder follows them throughout the keep, and the answers to the mystery lie in the north tower, which has been mortared closed. Following clues that lead to the old healer’s home in the woods, he and Celestia find the real relic. The genuine finger bone of Saint James the Apostle is nestled in a box on the mantel of the crone. Nicholas realizes that his men were killed for nothing – the relic they were protecting and taking to King Richard was fake. Was that why the baron ordered the ambush? To hide the fact that he’d lost the original relic, a gift from King Henry to his mother’s father, from King Richard? His men had given their lives so the baron could cover his own ass.
Revenge burns hot again and he tells Celestia he must leave immediately, despite the growing tenderness between them. She announces that she might just take a lover while he’s gone and the idea is like an axe to the gut. He is willing to change his mind if she would just give him one opening to apologize, but she throws his pack at his head instead and tells him to hurry and be on his way.
Inside the pack is a tunic that she’s hemmed, crookedly, since her skills are in healing and not sewing – but it’s the finest garment he’s ever seen. He’s been a fool, and he is going to turn back but he’s captured and thrown beneath the stables.
Captured – again. In the dark – again. Once he stops yelling at God, he starts listening – and realizes that he loves Celestia. Her happiness is worth more than the double curses their families have haunting them. Somehow her love has healed his soul.
LOVE'S MAGIC VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on June 1, 2008 and continue all month long. If you would like to follow Traci's tour in progress, visit http://www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/ in June. Leave a comment at any of her blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of her tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on June 30!
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