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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.