A Sword for His Lady is just as unabashedly silly, sensual and fun as its cover suggests. It has no pretensions of being deeply intellectual or literary—it's simply a sexy, entertaining romance unfolding in the exotic setting of early 12th-century England. The first in Wine's Courtly Love series, it’s perfectly suited for a summer vacation read.
The hero, Ramon de Segrave, fought in the Crusades for many years before returning to England with Richard the Lionheart. Richard orders Ramon to marry the widow Isabel, who has been managing her estate alone since the death of her husband. The estate is on inhospitable swampland, but Isabel supports the estate by raising geese and selling their feathers. (They are a necessity in archery, and because the country is at war, this is big business). If Ramon marries Isabel, then he can protect her estate from brigands, and Richard will have stable access to an important resource.
Initially, Ramon isn’t keen on marrying, but he quickly comes to admire Isabel's appearance, business acumen and ethics. Isabel, who was married at a young age to an abusive husband and does not want to lose her autonomy, is adamant that she will never marry again. Most of the plot consists of Ramon attempting to convince Isabel to marry him. At its best, this book is a playful and provocative battle of wills between two intelligent, resourceful people.
The book suffers from an unnecessary subplot featuring a one-dimensional villain and his Persian lover, who is described in unfortunately stereotypical terms. The villain appears to exist entirely so that readers can enjoy some battle scenes. Historical accuracy takes a backseat to romance, allowing for a comfortable and at times lavishly fabulous setting. This book is pure fantasy, not in the sense of containing magic, but in the sense of forgoing any mundane context and diving into a world of enjoyment. A Sword for His Lady is light and fluffy in the best "beach read" way, and although the narrative emphasis is on sex, the characters have some deeply satisfying groundwork of mutual trust, respect and emotional intimacy.