I got A Sense of Duty as a free download for my Kindle and I have to admit to being intrigued from the beginning! I adore all things medieval, so I really hoped this book would live up to my expectations and it sure did.
It begins with a prologue outlining the unspoken love between Constance, the daughter of an English Lord, and Gabriel, her personal guard who had fought in the crusades. It's hard to believe that not even a chaste kiss has crossed between them, but they stand motionless for what seems like hours on the beach, Gabriel's arms protectively around Constance.
But sadly, Constance has been pledged in marriage ten years prior to a much older Lord Barnard and the time for their hand-fasting has come. And as much as she loves Gabriel, she needs to marry Barnard to ensure his protection over her parent's lands.
She tells Gabriel that their time together had been "amusing," crushing his heart, and she marries the older man.
Six years pass and Constance feels like a prisoner in her own home. With two stillbirths behind her and no living children, her husband has decided to see if any of the local women or maids can produce a child for him. Constance is scorned, hurt, but glad that the older man leaves her alone. She wistfully thinks of Gabriel. And she passes the time she works with an older man named Ralph who teaches her to wield a sword and dagger as protection against local bandits.
On a trip to see her elderly Aunt Silvia at a nunnery, her guards are killed and Constance is taken captive. She is locked away, though not broken. Constance knows that they have demanded ransom, but doesn't understand why her husband has not paid it. Perhaps her brother might. When she is saved by mercenaries known as the Angelus, Constance's curiosity is piqued, but she's too grateful to worry about it. She is returned to her brother's home to recuperate against her husband's wishes.
As she regains her strength, Constance realizes that her beloved Gabriel is closer than she thought - he is a neighbor of her brother! Gabriel is in her childhood home once again, but this time flirting with the younger sister of Constance's sister-in-law. She does her best to ignore him, choosing instead to play with her young nieces and nephews - relishing in the ability to be with children. As time passes, her sister-in-law, Alison, realizes that Constance is not as she imagined and apologizes profusely for not visiting and for leaving Constance without the affections of her own family. However, Constance's jealous husband wants her to have nothing to do with her brother, his family, or the tall, handsome man who keeps stealing glances at his wife.
Through a harrowing series of events, Constance and Gabriel finally admit their love for one another, as expected, and Barnard flies into a rage. It is revealed that Gabriel is at the head of the mercenaries called the Angelus and Constance figures our that Barnard himself is at the helm of the bandits who have been robbing people and leaving them for dead the last several years.
When Gabriel is sentenced to hang - along with his men - and Constance is forced to return to her husband's keep, will they be able to unveil Barnard's deception and save the men of the Angelus?
Of course - the answer should be obvious!
A Sense of Duty is full of twists and turns - some expected, many not. There is just too much to try to cover in a quick book review! But if you like romance (not steamy stuff, but stories of finding your true love) and you like Medieval or Regency novels, I really think you will enjoy this one. I could barely put it down! I give Lisa Shea's book 4.5 out of 5 stars!
(PS - it is still free as of 2/14/12! Get it now!)