Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Audio Book #Review: Maiden and the Monster by Michelle M. Pillow - 3.5 Wine Glasses

15890822Title: Maiden and the Monster
Author: Michelle M. Pillow
Narrated by: Mason Lloyd
Length: 10 hrs and 55 mins 
Format: Audible Audio Edition
Version: Unabridged
Published: July 1st 2012 by The Raven Books 
ISBN: 1477513531 
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Audible
Reviewer: Linda
Source:    Author
Rating: 3.5/5

Vladamir of Kessen, Duke of Lakeshire Castle, is feared as a demon in the land of Wessex. The Kings have granted him a title of nobility in exchange for his part as a political prisoner. Discontent, he bides his time in his new home until war will once again rip through the land. But boredom soon turns to devious pleasure as the daughter of his most hated enemy is left for dead at his castle gate. Now the monster bides his time plotting revenge.

Lady Eden of Hawks' Nest doesn't know what to think of the man who saved her life, but she can't wrench her thoughts away. His words are those of a tyrant, true to his vicious reputation, but his touch is that of a man, stirring passion and lust when there should only be fear. It would seem the infamous monster is not as monstrous as he appears.

Rating: Contains graphic sexual content, adult language, and violence.

Linda's Thoughts: 
“Will she survive it? I told his lordship she would. I didn’t want to give him an excuse not to help her. Methinks that if he suspected she was near death, he would turn her out.”

“I don’t know. Methinks it depends on her will to live. If she doesn’t want life, she’ll die.” Haldana sighed. “I’ll stay with her and watch over her. Please, direct the girls to take over my duties.”

“Yea. ‘Tis already done.” Ulric narrowed his eyes in heavy contemplation, drawing back the coverlet at the girl’s bruised throat. His frown deepened. It looked as if she’d been strangled. “M’lord has put her in my charge until she awakens. He wishes to speak to her then.”

“Methinks that m’lord is more frightened of her being here because she is a woman and a woman of his class.”

“Yea, methought it also. He didn’t think much of me saying she was a beauty.” In truth, Ulric only saw the line of the lady’s slender body outlined by the coverlet and the fullness of her lips, but he’d mainly called her beautiful just to aggravate his lordship. He let go of the coverlet, letting the old material fall once more to cover the noblewoman’s neck. He moved his fingers to stroke the wiry hairs of his mustache.

  “Wouldn’t it be nice if she was sent here to melt the curse from his lordship’s heart?” Haldana sighed, wistful. “Yea, even the curse from this castle. Then the Monster of Lakeshire would leave us be once and fer all.”

“You are a romantic dreamer, dear girl.” Ulric kissed Haldana briefly on her forehead and turned to leave. “Let me know at once when she awakens.”

“Yea, Ulric, I will.” Haldana let her girlish giggle echo in the chamber as he shut the door. From outside the chamber, he heard her say, “Poor child. You don’t know what you have gotten yerself into coming here.”

MAIDEN AND THE MONSTER by Michelle M. Pillow was a very enjoyable medieval romance complete with knights, kings, castles and a maiden to rescue. I love the story of The Beauty and the Beast and this story was reminiscent of it in many ways. I listened to the audible edition.  It took me a bit to get in tune with the characters, but, once I did, I was subsequently fully invested in the story and listened raptly until the end. The story was set during the Vikings vs. Saxon's period in Wessex (an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the south of Great Britain) in 879 AD.

The characters were quite engaging. Vladamir, our hero, came across as an unfeeling, imperious monster at first.  He was the Beast (from Beauty and the Beast) before-his-Beauty-worked-her-magic-on-him personified. Scarred from a fire that had taken his famiy, Vladamir's appearance alone instilled fear.  He enforced that terror with a quick brusque temper. Vladamir's first wife had been a detestable, narcisstic person; She had soured him against women and any long-term relationship. 

Enter Lady Eden, our heroine, smelly, beaten to a pulp, covered with entrails and unconscious. As she slowly awoke and as the swelling and bruising ebbed away, her inward beauty began to shine. At first, she had no recollection of who she was or how she came to be buried in the pile of smelly pelts that had been dumped outside the Duke's Lakeshire Castle.  Vladamir was adamant that she would vacate his castle as soon as she was able, but as her memory slowly began to return, she knew that she needed to stay under his protection. I loved Lady Eden - she was classy and sweet - and strongly attracted to Vladamir. Vladamir's bark was a facade - much worse than his bite. He talked tough but his actions were actually nothing but kind towards her.  I held out hope thru-out that they would each find a way to open their hearts to each other and that their prior lives/families/politics would not undermine their destinies.

The narrator, Mason Lord, was very good. His voice was very clear and he articulated in a captivating brogue. He was a reader type of narrator, not an actor which is not a bad thing; but a fyi in case someone has a personal preference; Because of the period's accent he was speaking, I think that if he had added acting, it might have been too much. This was my first time listening to Mr. Lord. Based upon his performance with this book, I would not hesitate to listen to him again.

Following please find a short excerpt from the first chapter which will give you a taste of the condition in which our heroine was found outside the Duke's Lakeshire Castle.:

“Ulric rushed forward to the pile as soon as the spikes were out of his way. The seneschal’s wider frame lumbered with the effort it took him to kneel and he grunted under the strain. Swiping the sleeve of his brown tunic across his forehead, Ulric placed his arm before his nose as he leaned closer to the pelts.

Impatient, Vladamir watched Ulric pick through the skins. He followed silently behind, refusing to sheath his sword. The seneschal sat straight up in surprise.

“M’lord, it would appear to be a maiden amongst these pelts. Methinks I see the entrails of a rabbit in her hair,” Ulric yelled through the sleeve of his tunic.

The servant again wiped his sleeve across his brow before returning it to his nose. His small brown eyes shone with concern. With a grumble of disdain, Ulric lifted entrails from the maiden’s hair and flung them aside, only to gingerly remove a rabbit carcass the same way to reveal the bloodied lines of her swollen face. It was impossible to see whether she breathed....

“A maiden? Out here? And scented with festering carcasses?” Vladamir searched the forest that surrounded his castle. The hum of insects was quite clear on the morning air, and he noticed that the red bristled pigs grazing just beyond his walls were undisturbed. Nor could he detect movement within the barren limbs of the trees. Finally satisfied that the girl was alone, he turned his attention back to Ulric. He refused to show any interest in the maiden.

“Wake her and send her on her way.” He kept his voice passionless and made no effort to help the woman. “If she is dead, burn her, for I won’t tolerate that wretched smell in my bailey.”

“Should we not try to find out who she is first? Mayhap there are those who search fer her even now. Would you deny her kinsmen a proper burial?” Ulric protested quietly."

“Do as I command!” Vladamir insisted in a low growl. Even as he did so, he saw the knights that manned the wall look over the girl with curious stares. He heard their whispering as it drifted down, though he couldn’t make out their hasty words. He didn’t need to. The woman was more than likely a Saxon wench and they would wish to know whom, for none in the manor were missing. If she was dead, there was nothing he could do for her. He didn’t need this headache. His life was stressed enough.

Michelle's storytelling is superb! She has obviously researched the time period well as the story is rich with historical details.  I found myself alternately laughing, sighing and reeling in horror.  There were some unsavory scenes - necessary to the story, but unpleasant - while other parts had me holding my breath with emotional suspense. Prior to listening to MAIDEN AND THE MONSTER, I had read one other story by Michelle, LOVE POTIONS (WARLOCKS MACGREGOR #1) which I absolutely loved. (It was actually one of my top five reads for CY2014.)  I will be checking out more of her books soon! I would recommend MAIDEN AND THE MONSTER to anyone who enjoys a good medieval romance.

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