The Heart of the Phoenix by Barbara Bettis
Overview by Amazon:
Lady Evelynn’s childhood hero is home—bitter, hard, tempting as sin. And haunted by secrets. A now-grown Evie offers friendship, but Sir Stephen’s cruel rejection crushes her, and she resolves to forget him. Yet when an unexpected war throws them together, she finds love isn’t so easy to dismiss. If only the king hadn’t betrothed her to another.
Can be cruel
Sir Stephen lives a double life while he seeks the treacherous outlaws who murdered his friends. Driven by revenge, he thinks his heart is closed to love. His childhood shadow, Lady Evie, unexpectedly challenges that belief. He rebuffs her, but he can’t forget her, although he knows she’s to wed the king’s favorite.
When his drive for vengeance leads to Evie’s kidnapping, Stephen must choose between retribution and the love he’s denied too long. Surely King John will see reason.
Convict the murderers; convince the king. Simple. Until a startling revelation threatens everything.
Barbara Bettis is a very skilled writer. She takes a time period that doesn’t have a lot of record keeping and weaves historical facts with a great love story. The period in time is after King Richard’s reign and Prince John is about to ascend the throne. Although there is no mention of Robin Hood, the politics of the day are craftily woven into the story.
Evie has had a crush on Sir Stephen for years. And then years go by until she sees him again. He is forced into escorting her home from France to England. After a cryptic letter from her brother Henry about becoming betrothed, she is anxious to get home as fast as possible.
Stephen has been deeply embedded in fighting for the crown and fighting an enemy called the Dragon. The intrigue and danger only adds to the plot line. He must carry out three missions now. Continue his work for the Brotherhood of the Phoenix to capture the Dragon, return Evie to England safely and NOT give in to the lust he feels for her.
I love novels where they are racing across the countryside, dodging danger at every turn and living only for the moment. The author describes their journey with great imagery and emotions. Evie has gone from being Stephen’s ‘shadow’ to his personal tormentor. He finds her lush and womanly, yet he is duty bound to protect her and his mission. This makes for lots of arguments, heated looks and a few hot kisses.
Evie meets her intended by accident as they secure passage to England. Sir Fulk is at first charming, but she quickly sees the underbelly of a snake. It makes her long for the continued protection of Stephen and she must move quickly to undo this horrible betrothal.
Once they reach England, the stakes get higher. Murdering outlaws, kidnapping, death all surround the
group as they pursue their goals. The tension only pushes Evie and Stephen together. The love scenes are hot and steamy. No longer is Stephen impartial and resigned to Evie’s fate with Sir Fulk. He would rather die than see her tied to him. That means he must complete his mission as quickly as possible so he can get to Prince John and seek his favour. This is made harder by a traitor in their midst.
The intrigue and mystery had me catch my breath a few times as I was so caught up in the twists and turns of the story. Like most great hero’s Stephen has a past that is haunting him and is the motivation for him to do his work for the brotherhood. Being with Evie helps him to let go of his past and begin to plan for a future.
Like most historical romance novels, we want the happily ever after. This book ties up the winding and twisting plot very nicely and provides the reader with a satisfying ending. If you enjoy stories set in medieval England with buxom heroines, handsome hero’s, fights to the death and evil plots for the crown, then this is a definite read. It kept me well entertained and I found myself whispering encouragement to the characters and groaning when they stumbled.