The Valcourt Heiress

Catherine Coulter, Putnam, $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-399-15675-5
This seventh installment in hardworking Coulter's (Knockout) Medieval "Song" series employs stock characters (including a wicked witch for a mother), loyal household retainers, a plucky, resourceful heiress named Merry, a villain called the "Black Demon," a benevolent queen, a medley of wastrels, a conveniently separated-at-birth twin, and Garron, one of King Edward's strong-willed yet honorable guards. With a talent for saucy humor and a tumultuous 13th-century backdrop, the author ably turns such formulaic material into the winsome account of Merry's escape from an arranged marriage. Beginning when Merry flees her mother and joins Garron at Wareham castle, the novel details the woman's efforts in aiding his people, the lies she spins to conceal her identity, and the consequence of revealing the truth. Most chapters conclude at the cliff's edge, and there is little doubt that Merry will eventually achieve her desires, but Coulter's irresistibly escapist storytelling more than makes up for the predictable plot and one-dimensional villains. Fans of lighter historical romances and readers intrigued by an era when honor, power, land, and notions of duty were bound by the mandates of royalty will relish this tale. (Oct. 5)
Reviewed on: 12/13/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
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