Arabella Celestine Idris Jezelia, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan, is being prepared for her wedding day. Her parents have arranged for her marriage to the Prince of Dalbreck to bring the two kingdoms closer together. The princess, Lia as she is called, sent a note to her future husband asking if she might inspect him prior to their wedding day. She wants to be loved for who she is and not simply married for political convenience. No answer came.
As preparations are completed Lia asks for some moments to be alone before the ceremony and in those precious minutes, Princess Lia and her devoted lady-in-waiting, Pauline, gather a few jewels and possessions and flee on horseback. They are running for their lives and their freedom and for the right to be loved not bartered.
Lia is a strong woman who is not willing to hand her fate over to her parents or anyone else. The two young women ride to a distant village taking precautions to cover their tracks and make their way to a tavern where Pauline has friends. Here they find a warm welcome and jobs as barmaids.
What Lia does not know is that two men are on her trail each with a different motive. One is an assassin who is being sent to slit her throat. The other is the prince she shunned who is angry and determined to find her. As a character she is fearless and is willing to face every danger head on. She doesn't need to rely on others for protection. She can take care of herself and is not going to dissolve into helplessness when everything seems to be turning against her.
She works to blend into her new place in the world. No longer a princess she carries out her tasks at the tavern, cares for her friend, Pauline, and wonders at her feelings for the two men she is coming to care for. She also wonders about the "gift" that might have been hers at one time.
Told in alternating points of view we watch as the assassin plans the timing for his strike. He knows the "others" will be arriving soon and he had better have the job taken care of or someone else will do it for him. We also watch as the prince takes time to observe his intended bride. He thinks poorly of her at first but as he gets to know her, his opinion begins to shift.
A world of tradition, intrigue, loyalty, families destroyed, and rising passion swirls around Lia and all of her hopes and plans. Does she have the gift? Is she in love with Kaden? Is she in love with Rafe? Can she stay safe in this town with her father's troops hunting her down and a bounty on her head?
Fast-paced with simmering romantic tension and a plot that rushes forward through the varied points of view, this is a story of courage, integrity, and taking the higher road. These are characters you want to know more about because you sense each has a story and each has hope of rising to their highest self despite their pasts.
978-0805099232 Grades 9-12 496 pages
Recommended by: Barb, abookandahug.com