Madeline Hunter's writing always seems to be a notch above others', and BY POSSESSION is no exception. Having read and loved THE RULES OF SEDUCTION before (the only "romance" novel I've given 5 stars thus far), I was right at home with Hunter's medieval-era BY POSSESSION. I'm amazed at how realistic and believable Madeline Hunter's heroes are, and Addis de Valence is very compelling, not the sort of "alpha" romance heroes that are more pining than anything else. Though I found myself thoroughly captivated by BY POSSESSION, I thought the plotting and settings took a firm backseat to BY POSSESSION's heart-wrenching love story. The characterizations of our leading pair Moira and Addis are exceptional (Moira especially), but the settings and plotting are a bit weaker than what I'm used to from THE RULES OF SEDUCTION.
BY POSSESSION chronicles the heart-wrenching tale of a serf-woman's impossible love for a lord, giving all she has and expecting nothing in return. Deservedly, this tale belongs to Moira Falkner, serf-born daughter of an acknowledged prostitute. Moira is servant to Claire, the lady betrothed and later married to the handsome Addis de Valence, lord of Barrowburgh. Moira is so forgettable, so ordinary, Addis dubs her Claire's Shadow when Moira is young. Moira however fosters a deep-seeded and hidden love for Addis, and though many openly ridicule Moira because of her mother's dubious position, Addis is kind to Moira when she's young. Moira returns that kindness with such a profound love that blew me away, Moira gives everything she has, her soul, her heart, to Addis without ever expecting anything in return.
In order to escape a disastrous marriage to Claire, Addis leaves on a crusade in the Baltic, where he's captured and held in slavery for 6 years. Upon his return, he finds himself a foreigner in his homeland where everything has changed. Addis' stepbrother usurps Addis' father and now holds Addis' family's stronghold, Barrowburgh. Addis' father is dead, his wife is dead and he discovers he actually has a son, the heir to Barrowburgh. Only Moira remains as a symbol from his tortured past, having cared for Addis' heir and keeping him hidden and safe from Addis' stepbrother.
Even though Moira is no longer bondwoman, Addis refuses to give her up, and tenaciously grasps onto that symbol from his past, refuting her testimony that she was freed. After a few escape attempts, Moira unwittingly finds herself back in Addis' arms and desperately tries to deny her childhood love for Addis each escape attempt. She doesn't want to repeat her mother's rather notorious and dubious position as a lord's mistress even though both loved each other and were true to each other.
As a serf-born girl, Moira knows she has no real future with the rightful Lord of Borrowburgh, and refuses to accept him as his mistress like her mother accepted her lord. Moira desires a home of her own, and she will obstinately accept nothing less. She's prideful, and she holds her honor and respect in society above else, even trying to suppress a deep-rooted love for Addis.
The remainder of the story tells a heart-wrenching tale of Moira's love that can never be, and the unspeakable peace and love Addis finds with Moira. Addis will only take a willing Moira, and honors Moira so much that he won't even use seduction as a means of her acceptance. Instead, Addis is content finding a peace by just being with and around Moira. Addis finds he is only whole with Moira, and can find no peace elsewhere.
Moira's impassioned love for Addis knows no bounds, she gives so freely without any strings attached, without any expectation, that I was blown away. It was a heart-wrenching love because she knows she can never truly be with a Lord, and everything she gives to Addis is that much more profound, that much more impassioned, that much more gut-wrenching.
Again, an excellent tale and I look forward to reading other medieval-era books by Madeline Hunter.