Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Editorial Book Review: Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle by Jennifer Ivy Walker #HistoricalRomance #FantasyRomance #EditorialReview #TheCoffeePotBookClub

*Editorial Book Review*


Christmas in the Castle Series

by Jennifer Ivy Walker

Gabrielle is a flame haired, fire hearted French princess who dreams of becoming a Valkyrie warrior queen like her Viking ancestors from Normandy. Sent to Paris to learn the proper etiquette for a future French queen, she is called home to le Château de Beaufort for a forced marriage to a man she loathes when her father the king’s precarious health takes a sudden turn for the worse.

Chivalrous, solitary knight Sir Bastien de Landuc suffers an impossible love for Gabrielle, the unattainable princess he can never have. Without a title of nobility, he is ineligible to compete in the tournament for her hand in marriage, despite his unparalleled equestrian skills and inimitable swordsmanship.

Yet, Yuletide wishes for a wondrous winter solstice in the glorious Crystal Castle might make impossible dreams come true.

Can the valiant knight win the coveted hand of his Viking Valkyrie?

"Would you care to ride, my princess?" The rich timbre of Sir Bastien’s deep voice stirred her suffering soul, his expectant gaze promising an afternoon of invigorating challenge amidst the uplifting, natural beauty of the savage Breton coast.

Jubilant, ephemeral, fragile freedom.

"I would love that, Sir Bastien. Please, let’s go!"

Princess Gabrielle is distraught. Her dear father, King Guillemin of Finistère – a small kingdom in Brittany – is seriously ill. So much so, in fact, that he is keen to see his daughter, his only child, wed and his succession secured. But her concern for her father is not Gabrielle's only worry. Long ago, she lost her heart to the valiant Sir Bastien de Landuc. But her father's challenge sees his loyal subject excluded, as only barons and heirs can compete in the tournament held for Gabrielle's hand in marriage. Is there any way her true love can compete?

"Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle" is a beautifully intriguing medieval fantasy romance set against the breath-taking backdrop of the stunning Breton countryside.

In a clever combination of historical fantasy and gentle romance, Walker has created an evocative world full of love, magic, and exceedingly kind characters. But enemies lurk in the shadows, waiting for their chance to wrest the strategic kingdom from King Guillemin's increasingly feeble hands – and gain the beautiful princess as a bonus.

The language fits the storyline very well. It's flowery, sweet, respectful, though at times over descriptive and repetitive. But we get used to the gushing description of brave Sir Bastien and Princess Gabrielle's Viking beauty as the plot thickens.

Gabrielle is a caring young woman, aware of her station yet completely lacking the arrogance of one of her position. She is gentle, learned, yet with a backbone of steel. Trained in swordfight and self-defence by Bastien, she knows how to look after herself. This part of her renders homage to her Viking heritage, citing the famous Rollo as her ancestor. Desperate to enjoy as much time as she can with Bastien, her love, she not only trains with him, but allows him close, creating sizzling memories for an uncertain future.

Bastien is the archetypical knight in shining armour. He is handsome, tall, brave, and utterly loyal, even when he realises that, as a younger son, he has no chance of entering the tournament. Protective of Gabrielle, he thwarts a kidnapping attempt, which leads to his ennoblement by King Guillemin. But the French king's overall approval – required to validate Bastien's new position – is delayed, and only with that is he allowed to compete. So was it all in vain, after all?

We also have an utterly dastardly antagonist – Ugolin Cauchon, heir to the Marquis de Nantes. A failure in everything, Ugolin is a devious character who cheats and kills his way to whatever he sets his mind to – and he is completely focused on having Gabrielle and her kingdom. One could almost regard Ugolin as a caricature, and his ineptitude and ranting made me smirk at times. But his repeated attempts only make him more determined, and he makes for a nasty piece of work, causing trouble for Bastien and Gabrielle.

Giving the novel a glimpse at a distant folklore past, Lancelot du Lac and his mother also play vital roles in ensuring Gabrielle's safety – and her father's. The inclusion of iconic Lancelot in this romantic adventure adds a soft touch of fantasy and magic.

The author clearly loves all things French, with the titles of the castles and of the nobles always spelt in the language (which, at times, can appear repetitive). She also uses French terms in dialogue, but always makes the meaning clear, so that those who don't speak the language can follow easily. Her affection for French history and historic locations is obvious, and – as someone living in France – I found it endearing, even if it covered laws and characters from several centuries.

As a reader, you find yourself immediately immersed in the intriguing plot. Gabrielle's daring adventures make for delightful entertainment, and her sweet character wins you over straight away. Bastien is her ever-present protector (even in her bedchamber!), and his loyalty to her is never in doubt. Yet he would never dare disobey his king.

It's a fun read, not to be regarded as historical romance, but rather an enchanting blend of history, folklore, fantasy, romance, magic – and all things French.

Jennifer Ivy Walker’s “Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle” is as compelling as it is heart-warming. Walker's love for French history and legends from long ago shines through in every sentence. It is a delightful story which fans of historical fantasy romance will truly enjoy.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Cathie Dunn
The Coffee Pot Book Club

Universal Buy Link

Jennifer Ivy Walker

Enthralled with legends of medieval knights and ladies, dark fairy tales and fantasies about Druids, wizards and magic, Jennifer Ivy Walker always dreamed of becoming a writer. She fell in love with French in junior high school, continuing her study of the language throughout college, spending summers in France as a foreign exchange student, exploring medieval castles and troglodyte caves in the Loire Valley, sites of pilgrimage such as le Mont-Saint-Michel, eventually becoming a high school teacher and college professor of French.

As a high school teacher, she took her students every year to the annual French competition, where they performed a play she had written, "Yseult la Belle et Tristan la Bête"--an imaginative blend of the medieval French legend of "Tristan et Yseult" and the fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast", enhanced with fantasy elements of a Celtic fairy and a wicked witch.

Her debut novel, "The Wild Rose and the Sea Raven"--the first of a trilogy-- is a blend of her love for medieval legends, the romantic French language, and paranormal fantasy. It is a retelling of the medieval French romance of "Tristan et Yseult", interwoven with Arthurian myth, dark fairy tales from the enchanted Forest of Brocéliande, and otherworldly elements such as Avalonian Elves, Druids, forest fairies and magic.

Explore her realm of Medieval French Fantasy. She hopes her novels will enchant you.

Connect with Jennifer Ivy:

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  1. Thank you very much for reviewing Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle! I am truly honored by this five-star review!

    1. You're most welcome, Jennifer. It's been a real delight reading your novel.