A Woman of Valor Fights for Freedom and Love
by Dina L. Sleiman
Series: Valiant Hearts (Book 2 of 3)
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
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Strong and adventurous Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight like her chivalrous brothers, but her parents view her only as a marriage pawn. When her domineering father makes plans to see her wed to a brutish man, Gwendolyn must fight for her future.
She’s surprised, however, for that clash to include a handsome, good-hearted newcomer. Allen of Ellsworth arrives in Edendale searching for his place in the world, but he finds in Gwendolyn the most unexpected of women.
Tournaments, intrigue, and battles–along with twists and turns aplenty–await these two as they struggle to find love, identity, and their true destinies.
Chivalrous is the second book in Dina Sleiman’s proposed trilogy about strong women with Valiant Hearts. Though it isn’t absolutely necessary to have read book one, Dauntless, in order to enjoy this companion, to fully appreciate the plot and understand the characters you should! Also, there is in my review a spoiler for those who have not read the first book.
After a prologue wherein we meet our armor-clad, lance-wielding heroine, Gwendolyn of Edendale, the reader is reintroduced to Allen of Ellsworth, a young man with aspirations of knighthood who, in Dauntless, proved unlucky in love. In (not strictly) alternating chapters, Sleiman lets us in on Gwen and Allen’s fortunes and misfortunes, their desires and the hurdles in the way of their fulfillment. Eventually, as we expect, the two are brought onto the stage together.
From that point onward, the plot, politically and romantically, thickens, and our protagonists must use their wits as well as their strong right arms to fight through the turmoil surrounding (a murderous usurper) and infesting (a progressive, but fickle and befuddled ruling council, and Gwen’s vicious tyrant of a father) the dukedom of North Britannia. Fortunately, they do not have to encounter the dangers alone: Rosalind, Gwen’s maid, as determined as her mistress to forge her own path in life, is a stalwart ally; while Allen makes new friends in Edendale and eventually calls on his old ones from Ellsworth.
As usual in this series, Christian principles guide the primary characters and, in this case, many of the people of North Britannia. Although it must be said that, among Gwen’s other battles, she wrestles with the concept of a guiding God. As she strives to carve a niche for herself as a warrior woman, she also seeks to increase her knowledge of the Bible and her understanding of the ways of the Lord. As she assists her in the former goal, Rosalind also aids her mistress in the latter, though undergoing a dreadful experience herself.
One of the interesting and challenging aspects of writing fiction is selecting the names of your characters, especially those playing major roles. There’s always a sense that the name should mean something, but also an awareness that one can go overboard with the notion. Sleiman does a perfect job in choosing to dub her female warrior, Gwendolyn. To quote from Wikipedia: “Gwendolen was a legendary queen of Britain…[who] defeated her husband in battle…and took on the leadership of the Britons herself…[She] is an example of a queen willing to go to any lengths to protect her kingdom…”
Though not a queen, the heroine of Chivalrous is a worthy successor to her royal namesake, and Lady Gwendolyn’s struggle to arrive at her place in the world makes for an entertaining story.
— Jennifer Michelle
Filled with plenty of action, scheming, and solid characters (both good and evil), Chivalrous is a diverting gallop into an Arthurian-inspired past. Gwendolyn and Allen are easy to root for — especially Allen, when the reader of the first book was, by the direction of the plot and the plan of the author, made to pull against him. Happily, the extremely likeable Rosalind, who figures so prominently in this book, is set to be the featured character in book three, Courageous.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers for providing me a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
To read an excerpt and find out more about book one in the Valiant Hearts series,
please click on the cover: