The Key to Helmbrooke. For the Love of Isabelle by Jayn Wilde is her first published work. It contains an evil queen, a young maiden and a man intent on committing one final foul deed before he starts a new life. It is a short story of circa 82 pages.
Isabelle’s mother died a year previously and on the anniversary of her death her father is kidnapped and spirited away by the queen’s men, as he refuses to give them a special key they are seeking. Isabelle leaves her fiancée behind and sets out from her village, alone and on foot to find him, heading to the palace of Helmbrooke, home to the queen. Isabelle is a young woman with a free spirit and craves adventure.
Queen Tristana, feared by all, tasks Zander, a skilled tracker and hunter, with finding Isabelle. She instructs him to earn Isabelle’s’s trust, take the key from her and return it to the palace, leaving her to die in the forest. Zander, a tortured hero, is not proud of his past and decides that this will be his last job for the queen, before takes the gold he is due and uses it to fund a more reputable future.
Isabelle loses her way and by chance comes across Zander, who points her in the right direction. Zander is intrigued by Isabelle and follows her as he is curious as to why anyone would voluntarily seek the palace. Isabelle employs him to escort her there and it is not long before Zander realises that she is the woman he needs to deceive and abandon in the forest. However, the more he gets to know her, the less he desires to do this.The remainder of the plot includes capture, incarceration, magic and a sword wielding queen. We learn what happened to Isabelle’s mother, why the key is so important to the queen and whether Zander and Isabelle have a future together.
The book is a sweet romance. Isabelle and Zander are attracted to each other almost immediately, although Zander tries to fight this because of his orders and as such Isabelle thinks that he does not care for her. However, in the course of their journey to the palace we are given many examples of how their attraction grows and how they come to develop feelings for each other. I particularly liked the two scenes which took place at the waterfall – the descriptions were very vivid and they made me smile. I also enjoyed the humorous banter between Zander and Isabelle, which formed part of their courtship.
Overall it is a heart warming romantic tale. I could imagine it being told by the fireside to young and old alike. I liked the plot and thought that the pacing of the story was excellent. I would have liked a little more back story about the two main characters, but this would have been difficult due to the length of the book. I would certainly read another book by the author and recommend it to all lovers of a sweet romance.