Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Available on Amazon.com
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
I was surprised that I liked Rope Dancer as much as I did. It isn't typically something I would be drawn to read, yet it's a rollicking, adventurous, sweet and even kind of hot book.
Carys is the eponymous dancer, performing on ropes as part of a traveling troupe in medieval England. The men she works with, however, treat her with something less than dignity. Okay, a LOT less than dignity. Carys does not realize that she can - and should - be treated better, largely because this life is the only one she has known.
The land is rife with battles, skirmishes and outright wars between various fiefdoms, and to escape one, Carys takes a precarious fall. She is discovered by Telor and Deri, a traveling minstrel and dwarf, respectively. The two men entertain for pay, with Telor occasionally providing extra "services" to the ladies.
Telor initially is put off by Carys's stench, which I found quite humorous. After she cleans up, he realizes that she's actually kind of attractive - he likens her to a fox. GET IT? She's FOXY! Carys joins the two men in their escapades, performing and escaping from various pickles in which they find themselves. Telor puts one lord in his cross hairs, determined to exact retribution.
Along the way, he finds himself beguiled by Carys, and she, in turn, is intrigued by him.
Carys found this difference between looks and character very interesting. Both men she had dealt with intimately in the past looked what they were: Ulric was strong and stupid, and Morgan, although he could hide what he was under a "player's face" for a time, betrayed the sly cleverness by his sharp features and narrow eyes when he was not acting. But Carys was sure Telor was not playing any role for her, which meant his face did not portray the inner man. Interesting ... and dangerous
Roberta Gellis takes her time in getting these two into a romantic relationship. Carys assumes she and Telor will sleep together, because Ulric and Morgan took her at their pleasure. For his part, Telor believes Carys is not attracted to him, and he is not the sort of man to force himself on a woman, especially when so many beautiful, supple women pursue him. But he's attracted to Carys, there is no doubt about that.
There are several adventurous scenes in this book, in which our merry trio attempts to extract itself from one scrape after another. There also is a lot of emotional depth. Each character has a struggle of some sort, and they need to heal.
Gellis writes with such detail that we see everything: the performances, the characters and the battles. This is a long book - it's 400 pages - but it flies by. Think of it as a three hour movie that feels more like two.