An Oath Taken (The Oath Trilogy) by Diana Crosby
An Overview by Amazon:
As the new castellan, Sir Nicholas Beringar has the daunting task of rebuilding Ravenmoor Castle on the Scottish border and gaining the trust of the locals—one of whom wastes no time in trying to rob him. Instead of punishing the boy, Nicholas decides to make him his squire. Little does he know the thieving young lad is really…a lady.
Lady Elizabet Armstrong had donned a disguise in an attempt to free her brother from Ravenmoor’s dungeons. Although intimidated by the confident Englishman with his well-honed muscles and beguiling eyes, she cannot refuse his offer.
Nicholas senses that his new squire is not what he seems. His gentle attempts to break through the boy’s defenses leave Elizabet powerless to stem the desire that engulfs her. And when the truth is exposed, she’ll have to trust in Nicholas’s honor to help her people—and to surrender to his touch…
This story takes place in the year of 1291. Sir Nicholas is put in charge of Ravenmoor Castle after the spectacular failure of Sir Renard to secure the castle and rebuild relations with the border Scots. King Edward, aka Longshanks has high hopes that Nicholas can solve the Scots problem and quickly.
As he approaches Ravenmoor Castle, he is held up by a revier asking for his purse. His interaction with this little imp shows the depth of Nicholas’s character. Instead of imprisonment or death, he offers the lad a role as his squire. The author spends a lot of time developing the character of Nicholas. He truly is a good man, a real Knight in shining armour.
Little does he know that the lad ‘Thomas’ is actually Lady Elizabet from the neighbouring castle. Her father, brother and men have been imprisoned in Ravenmoor and Elizabet is desperate to find a way into the castle to free them. She takes drastic measures such as cutting her hair and agreeing to be Nicholas’s squire. This means very, very close company with the enemy. She can’t resist the opportunity presented to her, even though exposure could cost her family their lives and her own.
I don’t know a lot about the role of the squire and the relationship between the two. I found this interesting link that outlines the roles and responsibilities for a squire http://www.lordsandladies.org/squires.htm. After reading this I had a deeper understanding of the close relationship between knight and squire.
Once Nicholas takes on Thomas he is intrigued by this young man. He develops a very close relationship with him and feels a deep sense of protectiveness towards him. Thomas is a Scot and Nicholas is English, so there is the strife of two communities that do not get along. Yet, Nicholas values Thomas’s insights and thoughts. He wants peace at all costs. Thomas’s odd behaviour at times leads Nicholas to believe that he has been violated by another man and it increases his interest and protection of him.
Of course, the reality is that Thomas is actually a Lady and she intrigues him because of the secretive behaviour she must exhibit in order to succeed at her task. She discovers that her father has died and her brother rages with fever. Nicholas rises even higher in her esteem when he starts to clean up the mess left behind by Sir Renard. He brings in a healer to the sick, buries the dead with dignity and moves her gravely ill brother to a room in the castle.
So far, her disguise has worked. She has been able to communicate with her furious brother. He is incensed by the death of their father, his illness and capture and that his own sister is reduced to playing squire in order to free him. He keeps her secret, but is a dangerous man who is letting emotions rule his temper. Danger not only comes from her position in the castle, but a former, ardent suitor has unmasked her and is demanding marriage in order for silence and sparing the lives of Nicholas and Giric. The noose is tightening around Elizabet as she is caught in a web of lies. Worse of all, she has fallen for Nicholas. She sees what a good man he is and is at times overwhelmed by the intimate relationship they have and longs to know him as a woman.
Her carefully woven plans are undone after Nicholas spies her swimming in the lake. He sees her breasts and realizes at once why he had such a fixation with his squire that at times made him uncomfortable and question his sanity and manhood. It was like a flood gate opened, all the lies came undone, as well as the clothing.
Nicholas knows who she is, he knows about her brother, and most importantly he knows that he wants her desperately. Elizabet is won over pretty easily as his physical presence has been haunting her for weeks and due to their closeness she knows him better than most wives know their husbands. The consummation of their attraction was very hot. The sex scenes are well written and as the reader you feel the passion they share. Now that the truth was out, he can’t get enough of her. Elizabet is embarrassed to admit her sham to the castle, but Nicholas wants things done the right way. He is marriage minded, but Elizabet is hesitant as there is the matter of her brother and men.
This is where all the time spent developing Nicholas’s character pays off. He is a noble and true man. He builds an alliance with her brother Giric to bring down the noble Scot who aided and abetted with Sir Renard. Of course it is none other than the vile Sir Dunsten. Nicholas frees Giric and his men to search for treasonous activity that he can act upon.
The denouement of the story involves dealing with Sir Dunsten. He has captured Elizabet and plans to murder both the men she loves. The ending was very satisfying as love and honour save the day. That’s not to say the final moments weren’t filled with frightful, agonizing moments that had you worried sick for the characters. The story moves at a fast pace and thankfully the unpleasant Dunsten doesn’t get his way.
I enjoyed this book because I really liked the time period. It’s an interesting time when Scots and English were bitter enemies. It was interesting to read a story where there was a man who was determined to make peace stick. I also found the role of the squire very interesting and it led me to do my own research because I was so fascinated. The author wove an excellent tale and took the time to develop the characters and their relationship – albeit under pretenses. When they finally meet as man and woman, they know each other’s souls. I really hope the next book in the series is Giric’s tale. As a man who has known enormous loss, he is a powerful Lord and as Nicholas describes him, ‘this man commanded respect, honour and devotion’.