Song of Isabel
Lady Isabel, daughter of Lord Theodoric of Narbonne, is twelve years old when she is attacked by soldiers and rescued by a stranger whose face she does not see. Eight years later, the stranger returns, this time with a name attached: he is Lord Chetwynd, a friend of her long-absent brother.
Although Chetwynd had intervened before the soldiers could do their worst, the attack damaged Isabel emotionally and she has used it as an excuse to avoid the marriages her family has attempted to arrange for her. Her desire now is to visit the royal court to see her brother and if possible avoid being sent to a convent. For reasons that don’t bear up to too much scrutiny, Isabel and Chetwynd marry so that she can travel to court with him. Marriage also serves as cover for him as he extricates himself from some sort of relationship with the queen. They agree to have the marriage annulled as soon as convenient.
Needless to say, the two are thrown together in every way imaginable in the course of their journey. They share a bed in order to avoid suspicion and ride together in physical contact. He tries to master sexual temptation in order that she will be untouched and able to marry again, while she demonstrates ingenuity in dealing with the intricacies of court and in freeing herself from kidnappers.
The setting is 9th-century France, shortly after the death of Charlemagne, although the basic dynamics of the relationship could have taken place in any number of eras. From the first pages, it’s pretty clear how the book will end. That said, I kept wanting to read, and the story was in the end satisfying if somewhat predictable.