Stars: 4 / 5
Once Upon A Castle is a collection of four novellas by famed romantic authors - Nora Roberts, Jill Gregory, Ruth Ryan Langan and Marianne Willman - published in March of 1998. The second novella is titled Castle Doom and written by Jill Gregory. I had been reading a few non-fiction and lengthy fictions past few weeks so I wanted to pick an easy book this time. Hence this novella. Here's the review on the second story in the collection.
The plot opens with Lady Arianne riding towards Briar Knoll to free her brother, Marcus - Count of Galeron - who was imprisoned in the dungeons of Castle Doom. There has been a rivalry between the kingdoms Galeron and Dinadan for centuries and nobody knows why. But she didn’t want Marcus to become one more sacrifice in that long-ago started enmity and her distant cousin and cruel Duke Julian - ruling the Kingdom of Dinadan - take over both the kingdoms. Added to that a gypsy had predicted that the banished Lord Nicholas was coming to wrest the kingdom away from the Duke's hand. Julian's mood was not friendly knowing that Lady Arianne was working on freeing Marcus and also that the gypsy's prediction may come true. But there was a time that Arianne remembered that under the rule of Archduke Armand - father of Julian - Marcus, Arianne, Julian and Nicholas had all played together, lived and had more fun in life to care for. Nicholas had been the oldest son of Armand from his first wife while Julian was his second son from his second wife.
Now Arianne reached the Briar Knoll in search of the dungeon guard, Galdain, who had the master key to the dungeon. But Galdain was asking for more than gold from her in payment and when refused he attacks her. A stranger comes in time to save her by fighting Galdain off her with all the skills of an experienced soldier. Who turns out to be the banished Lord Nicholas himself. After so many pleas and messages she had sent he finally had come. But will he see her as a child of ten that he had last seen her before he was banished? Or will he see her as a woman grown to fight for her land, stand beside her and help her free her brother Marcus? Or will he just see her as a woman? She was also angry at him for staying away from the kingdoms, leaving the people's fate at the hands of cruel Julian. She was livid at the thought that he had carelessly forgot the vow of friendship he had made with Marcus. And left to become what but a mercenary. But he had come even though it is at the end of the time - just before Marcus is hung. Will she trust him to free her brother? Will she understand why he left and became a mercenary? Will he realize that she was a warrior-princess? Will their hearts fight along-side and win each other while they work towards the battle against Julian? Why was Lord Nicholas banished in the first place?
A well-written plot taking you across lands and regions and battles and love. Another quick read about kingdoms, battles, princesses and warriors. A refreshing and smooth plot for those fast readers and readers who have less time at their hands.