Stealing Heaven

Stealing Heaven - Madeline Hunter So, after my teenesque righteous rage flame out over Phantom Waltz last night (I've since washed off the eye makeup and restyled the emo hair out of my eyes,) it was a relief to grab this bad Larry and enjoy it thoroughly. I wavered between a four and a five, and still do, so it's absolutely a 4.5.Marcus of Anglesmore has been ordered by King Edward to marry the heir to an important Welsh estate as a way to stave off any rebellion from the restive Welsh marches. Nesta meets him by accident one night when he sneaks into the garden of the London home she and her sister are staying in. They share a long kiss, some words, and he leaves feeling much more excited about the marriage. Nesta, however, neglects to mention that he's kissed her, the king's former dalliance, and not her sister, whom he's meant to be betrothed to.The book's action then centers around Nesta and Marcus fighting love and duty in equal measure. Pretty much every allegiance either has sworn to uphold - Nesta to the Welsh rebellion and Marcus to the king and England - stands in opposition to their attraction.The book's strongest quality is its historical details. Hunter's voice and dialogue is pitch-perfect for the period in diction and syntax. Attitudes and values match the century. As head over heels as Marcus is for Nesta, his duty is to marry her sister, and he doesn't reconsider that duty at all in the face of romantic love. He doesn't consider marrying Nesta until any chance of marrying her sister fails, and then only pursues it because it fits his plans. This is not an anachronistic story about two lovers who toss everything away to be together, but instead a story about two strong-willed people working to stick to their principles while getting what they want.Now, I consider this a strength, but I can see where other readers would find this frustrating. For the entire book, neither gives up their plans. While Marcus is working to deflate any rebellion, Nesta is working as hard to build it up, and they're quietly betraying each other the whole time. This doesn't end until one legitimately outwits and defeats the other. What saves this from being exasperating is that Hunter makes both causes sympathetic, though you know which way the wind's going to blow, and their efforts in earnest, while having them openly acknowledge both that they want and love each other but won't be swayed from their causes. Nesta was a strong heroine, but she could admit her feelings, as could Marcus. It was honest deception, somehow, and I appreciated that she got to be a worthy adversary to Marcus. This might be my favorite of her medievals. I'm a sucker for a strong, proud heroine who never backs down. YMMV.