Great Maria by Cecelia Holland
As Cecilia Holland’s historical romance Great Maria opens, our young and pretty heroine is doing what any well-bred medieval girl might be about on a blustery afternoon: visiting a religious shrine some miles from home and contemplating a life in the convent. Guarded as she is by a handful of her father’s knights, she cannot help noticing that one of them is extremely young and handsome... and that he has noticed her. But when a sudden vicious attack leaves her in dire peril, it is an older knight with cool gray eyes who defends her and brings her back to her father’s castle.
However, Maria is no well-bred heroine. She is simply the darling daughter of a medieval robber baron who holds his lands only by force of arms. Her father’s knights are nothing like the ones loyal to the ideals of the Round Table. They are soldiers of fortune, really, younger sons seeking a path to glory or riches, or preferably both. And one of those paths would be by marrying Maria!
While Great Maria is a nicely-written, well-researched book, it is leagues ahead of most others of its kind on the market today. The story and characters are front and center. Maria proves to be a heroine with backbone and backstory, all the while facing the kinds of challenges that a medieval woman might--an arranged marriage to someone whom she does not particularly like, scads of children, and the enemy both inside and outside the doors. But she proves herself to be the equal to these challenges without ever becoming a cutout character. Indeed, given the right circumstance, she can be as much cutthroat and political genius as her father and husband ever were.
Highly-recommended for readers who would enjoy a witty and intriguing romance in a dangerous historical setting by an acclaimed author. Great Maria is available both in print and as an eBook.