by Kathryn Loch
Garin Swein returns from fighting in the Crusades to England, just in time to marry his childhood betrothed, Alyna and take over as baron of Kirkoswald. But just after returning, he is struck with a fever that leaves him blind. Everyone expects him to cancel the marriage and step down, allowing his sister Julia and her fiance to inherit the barony. Alyna, inspired by her blind uncle, is convinced she can teach Garin to cope. But the threat that he could be stripped of his title is real--will Alyna be able to help him? And will that be enough to satisfy the authorities and his grasping sister?
The writing is pretty good for a romance. Garin and Alyna are appealing characters, and the depiction of his blindness is fairly realistic. There is some good action at the end too, but through the middle it moved kind of slowly. Garin spends way too long agonizing over things that should have already been resolved, like his doubts that Alyna is only helping him for selfish reasons. Also there's a big subplot with Julia. It paid off in the end but for a long time it felt like a distraction.
The number of anachronisms really bugged me. Everything is just too dainty for a medieval setting. The characters all read and write fluently, even the women, and people exchange letters and notes as if paper were readily available. They have carpets on the floors, glass in the windows, and napkins at the table. The characters all behave in a very modern way too. It's a shame because many of the details are good, like the clothing and armor. The middle ages is a hard setting to get right because it is so distant from us. As a romance this book is pretty good, but as historical fiction, not so much.