Book Critique – # 363: By Arrangement (Medievals #1)

For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: If you are into period setting novels with romance and mystery along-side, books by Madeline Hunter are ones to be tried for sure.

By Arrangement is the first book in the Medievals series by Madeline Hunter published in June of 2000. Since I have a penchant to read from the first book or first book in a series of a particular author that I like, I picked Madeline Hunter's very first book that she wrote. Indeed this is her very first book and she received the award for Waldenbooks Bestselling Debut Author that year. The plot revolves around David de Abyndon - a common merchant - and Lady Christiana Ftizwaryn - a royal ward.

Lady Christiana Frizwaryn is arranged to be married to a common merchant - David de Abyndon. Being a ward to King Edward and Queen Philippa and a descendent of ancient nobility, she had expected to be married to someone equal to her status, someone like Stephen Percy - a knight to who she had given her heart and body to. But King Edward accepted David's offer for her as a way of punishing her. Christiana did not want to get married on that account but on her own terms. As for David the world thinks that he had paid a huge bride price to buy the body of Christiana. Although he is unaffected by their difference in social status or her reasons for not getting married. Instead his resolve to get married to her becomes more stronger.

But is it true that David paid the price for her body or was there more to it behind the scenes? As for Christiana, will she forget her love and accept David? Or will she run away to him despite the bond of marriage? Why did King Edward show so much haste in getting Christiana's marriage arranged? Was it as simple as finding her discretions or was it much more? As the reader delves into the lives of Christiana and Edward, one finds more secrets being opened up. How these secrets line up is something one has to read and find out.

With quite a few sub-plots the reader might feel it complicated at some points, but Madeline manages well not to confuse the reader. The plot is set at the time when King Edward III ruled England along-side Queen Philippa, particularly around the time he marched to Normandy, sacking the city of Caen in 1346. Madeline blended the actual history into this fictional plot seamlessly. The elaborate war plot doesn’t bore the reader either since the element of romance still hangs to it.

It is so amazing to read about how having mistresses and whores was so common in the medieval time or even having multiple wives. Was it because men were more than women then? Or was it more of habitual nature to save their daughters against any kind of attacks? Also surprising that the bastard children were accepted so well in most cases and even bestowed with the father's hand on their head. Of course there were disputes and fights, but aren’t there similar things happening within siblings born of same parents. Just amazes me that up until a century ago this was acceptable. And now it is a law not to have this practice in most regions.

It is so interesting how the world interprets the age of a person against the maturity. Also about marriages being performed as young as when the kids were mere 14. Perhaps it was common since the life expectancy was so low back then. It still wonders me that if I was in that era, would I wanted to be married that young. One never knows.

Although I have already read some of her future books, reading her first book certainly gives me an understanding of why she had become an instant hit with readers. She sticks to the fictional plot keeping in the elements as close to real as possible without derailing too much. I don’t see the intense romance that she has in some of her future books, however there is a tangible presence of romance bordering on eroticism giving the reader a glimpse of what they would see from her in future books. As always with any historical book it gets a bit hard to imagine the location or clothing or understand the language for me. A book none the less that I thoroughly enjoyed. 

All in all this is one historical romance novelist that I would love to read all of her books.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The plot for this book reminded me of another of Madeline's future books and I fail to remember the name of the book now.

2) Wonder if any of the characters in this book will become the focus of Madeline Hunter’s books in future or at least resurface.

3) The quest to claim their lands at Harclow and seek aid from King Edward didn’t complete for the Fitzwaryns in this book. Will there be a future book from Madeline basing her story on Morvan and around this quest to claim Harclow? One has to wait and see.

4) Being that these are historical romances by Madeline, I was always charmed by the language she used and how different the words are used now:

a. Saracen - synonymous with "Muslim" in Medieval Latin. It has evolved over time. Here is the history on that word.

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