The Temptress (Bride Quest II #3) by Claire Delacroix
Synopsis: “I will not wed a man who thinks to own me.”
Furthermore, Esmeraude of Ceinn-beithe declares that she alone will name the winner of her heart. To the knights gallant who ride from afar to do her bidding, she issues a challenge: a riddle that is both quest and test. And then she flees, daring her suitor to follow. Thus begins the Bride Quest of Bayard of Villonne, to compete for the hand of a woman he has never seen…
Newly returned from the Crusades, Bayard has warned his family of a pending attack upon their estate. When they pay no heed to his message, he swears to protect the family holding himself…even if its price is a marriage of convenience. It seems a simple matter to win the hand of a rural maid in a barbarian contest — until the chase begins. Esmeraude’s challenge makes her far more intriguing than Bayard had dared to hope.
But when he follows her across the waters and rescues a tattered, ravishing damsel in disguise, he knows he has found her. Recklessly, she offers herself to the handsome stranger. But not even a passion that touches both their souls can win her hand. For Esmeraude will settle for nothing less than total surrender of the crusader’s worn and weary heart…a treasure Bayard is determined to keep shielded forever.
Review: I had difficulty getting into this story at first. I did not like Esmeraude. She was naïve and silly and her schemes were not well thought out and she found herself in trouble. Her idea that if she lost her virginity her appeal to the men who simply wanted her for her land would go away was naïve. How she thought that her husband wouldn’t mind that she wasn’t chaste was silly for that era. She came across as sometimes spoiled, over indulged and sheltered.
On the other hand, Bayard carries the story well. He is a strong character, stubborn, passionate, and when needed, fierce. I enjoyed watching Bayard court Esmeraude and their interactions do strengthen and the plot grows into an enjoyable story once they reunite after the Isle of Mull. She is definitely headstrong and Bayard has his work cut out for him. Their story really picks up once at Airdfinnan and I like how she made him work for it. They ended up being equally matched in the end. The conflicts were good, the villain dastardly, and the conclusion perfect. It wasn’t my favorite in the series (I think book 2, The Beauty, stands out more for me), but once I got used to Esmeraude it became enjoyable.