Title: By Possession
Author: Madeline Hunter
Published: 2000, Bantam
Category: Historical Romance
This is the second book in Hunter's medieival trilogy. I liked By Arrangement so much I moved right on to this one--and it was even better, imo.
Moira Falkner is a bondswoman owned by (or not owned, I don't know the right terminology--owes allegiance to?) Addis de Valence, the lord of the estate who has been off fighting the Crusades for years and is presumed dead. Addis returns to find that half his lands have been claimed by his stepbrother, so he decides he must journey to London to plea his case with the King. Moira is one of the few people he remembers fondly from his time before the Crusades, and he takes comfort from her presence, so he takes her along with him. Moira had loved him from afar from the time she was a child, though she refuses to consider becoming his mistress. The two slowly fall in love, but both know that Addis must marry someone of his own class to stabilize his position politically.
This is very much a star-crossed lovers story, which is always good. The two have legitimately insurmountable obstacles to their being together--I found this refreshing after so many romance novels' rather forced conflicts. And maybe the ending isn't very realistically possible for the time period, but I didn't care. (Did I just give away the ending? Umm, it's a romance novel, I think you could figure it out yourself.)
The first part was maybe a little slow, but the last 2/3 was just excellent. Plenty of action, lovely romance. Really great characters--Addis is rather cynical and damaged, which makes the joy he finds with Moira all the more touching. Moira's dignity, pride, and determination not to be less than she is is admirable.
I've got the last book in the trilogy, By Design, on order. IIRC, the hero in that one is Rhys, a character from this book who I liked quite a lot.