One Night in Hartswood

One Night in Hartswood

by Emma Denny

3 out of 5

Oxford 1360

When his sister’s betrothed vanishes the night before her politically arranged marriage, Raff Barden must track and return the elusive groom to restore his family’s honour. William de Foucart ― known to his friends as Penn ― had no choice but to abandon his fiancé, and with it his own earldom, when he fled the night before his enforced marriage. But ill-equipped to survive on the run he must trust the kindness of a stranger, Raff, to help him escape. Unaware their fates are already entwined, their unexpected bond deepens into a far more precious relationship, one that will test all that they hold dear. And when secrets are finally revealed, both men must decide what they will risk for the one they love…

Penn has always been a disappointment to his father, and now he's being forced into marriage with someone he's never met, to bring his father more power and prestige.
When he escapes to the woods, he runs into Raff, and they have an instant connection.
Neither know the truth about the other's identity, but they travel together, getting slowly closer.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The story is split between two narrators.
William "Penn" de Foucart - the oldest surviving son of a new, but powerful Earl. After bringing shame on his father yet again, he's about to be married off and expected to disappear quietly to a house on the estate. But Penn isn't interested in any woman and he bolts to the freezing woods.

Raff Barden the second son of a Northern Earl with a long history. Since his brother went to war, Raff has stepped up and helped run everything. When he meets Penn by chance in the woods, he agrees to take a slow route home, allowing Raff to escape from all the pressure in his life.

This books took a while for me to get into.
I found that our narrators, despite their very different upbringings, had very similar voices. In the review copy I read, it wasn't always clear who was narrating. I had to keep going back to check.
They also felt very young. These "men" are supposed to be in their mid-to-late-twenties - in the 14th Century, that's practically middle-aged! But these guys came across as modern teenagers.

I thought that the setting was repetitive. The plot just circles around the concept that the two guys are traveling through the wilderness together, and spending each night together for warmth. It spins on and on, with nothing new.
The historical accuracy (and general knowledge about horses) was just... frustrating.
I found some sections very hard to believe. How did Raff's brother just happen to find them in the middle of the woods?

The good stuff.
Raff and Penn's relationship is really sweet, and charming, and it won me over, despite all the issues above.
I thought that Penn's history with his father was well done, and you can tell how that affects his confidence in so many things.
When Penn got to stand up to his father near the end, that made me cheer!

Overall, this was a sweet little romance.


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