St. Martin's, Dec 2001, 6.50, 432 pp.
In 1212, teenager Jared de Navarre is expected keep his preadolescent betrothed Isabeau de Lyon safe, but she sneaks away to watch the Children's Crusade. Somehow Isabeau becomes part of the marchers and vanishes. Feeling guilty for failing at his mission, Jared vows to find Isabeau and bring her home. However, she is sold into slavery in the Middle East and he fails to rescue her.
Years go by and though Jared still sort of seeks out Isabeau he believes she is dead. He has hardened his heart and become the notorious mercenary The Black Lion, willing to do anything for cash. An assassin guild member, the Shadow Hunter, knows of his reputation and hires Jared to steal a jewel from a rival. Neither the Black Lion nor the Shadow Hunter realizes that the identity of the other is their betrothed. Both have done ugly things to mentally survive, but a wall of shame makes a permanent relationship between them seems more impossible than the first meeting between them after all those years.
HEART OF A LION is a strong medieval romance that mostly occurs in the Middle East, which enables the plot to feel quite invigorating in spite of the desert heat. The action-packed story line hooks sub-genre fans because both lead characters obtain empathy from the audience due to their respective plights. Hillary Fields provides an intense historical romance that will surely garner her many new readers.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner