Judith McNaught is one of my favorite authors. She’s written a lot of fantastic novels and I try to read them all as soon as possible. Recently, however, it came to my attention that I had not yet discovered A Kingdom Of Dreams by Judith McNaught – until now! As someone who loves Whitney (my love) and her books for the same reason, I was excited at the chance to find out how her hero would be related or connected with those from Kingdom. If you’re into knights and fair maidens this book is fast paced with enough humorous repartee in it- making an utterly entertaining read! It also has its poignant moments (a two-hanky kind). How could such a book not be great?
The Kingdom of Dreams tells the tale of the first Duke in Claymore, Royce Westmoreland. Dubbed “The Wolf” by Henry VII when still a child, his name strikes fear in hearts and minds of his enemies even today. But what makes up our hero is not just legends; there is more to him then that! Is he really a wolf in sheep’s clothes (forgive the pun)? Yes, he can be mighty warrior who has won many battles but all he seeks for now is peace with himself and shares it with someone special – such as woman willing to accept him for man she sees-not legend or words spread about him. His greatest desire right now is to retire from battle and share peaceful life with wife at castle which was started 8 years ago.
Jennifer is the daughter of a clan head who had remarried with a woman that had four children. Three of those children were sons, which was good for their family bloodline and they became heirs to the title. Two of these step-siblings are wicked in every sense; her two sisters want Jennifer gone because there would be no interference in them becoming heads if she’s around instead. They spread lies about her when they hear she might stand up against them like what happened before, when she tried to take over as “heir” during their father’s absence and was sent away from home until he came back (to save face). This time however, after hearing about this plan by her brothers again, Jennifer wanted more than anything else to prove herself right – something that would make people love rather than despise or distrust her once again (since it seems like people always do not believe what you say) so while at convent school where life seemed peaceful enough outside all this chaos surrounding Merrick Clan politics – living without any fear whatsoever since it doesn’t matter much anyways! She tries curbing reckless behavior but fails miserably.
After being in the convent for so long, Jennifer’s father finally visits her. He wants her to marry an old lecher who happens to be the head of another clan. Jennifer must agree if he is going fight “The Wolf” and gain troops from this marriage. Reluctantly, she agrees only because it will help him win against “The Wolf. When they go off together with Brenna-who is also a step sister–they get kidnapped by Stefan Westmoreland, “The Wolf”s brother. It didn’t take much effort on his part and he was quite proud of himself when has taken them back to camp and dumps Jennifer at Royce’s tent; but Royce isn’t pleased that either one of them are there!
Jennifer’s reputation appears to precede her, but Royce finds her anything but plain and arrogant. He’s smitten by her fiery beauty and impressed by her honesty and her refusal to cower in front of him. She tries to stab him instead! Her intelligence also impresses him. She earns his trust by volunteering to perform some much-needed mending, completely unaware that she is planning their escape as boys. She and Brenna do manage to flee, but when Royce discovers them, she will pay the price. He is astounded by her reaction to his discipline, and his admiration turns into something more.
Each begins to understand the other. Royce realizes Jenny craves love and acceptance, which is why she feels needed and cared for when he pays attention to her. Meanwhile, Jenny understands that Royce’s reputation is just that- what people say about him– but there’s more than just a warrior hiding under his skin. She is also a source of amusement in his life!
Royce grows to want her like he’s never wanted a woman before, so they make a deal. If Brenna is allowed to return to the abbey, she will give up her virginity.
The following love scene is probably the most touching that I have ever read. Royce, scarred by many wars, expected repulsion or even excitement at the mention of his name. What he least expected was Jennifer’s reaction: she kissed each of his scars as if to heal him and told him “My God, how they’ve hurt you! You should see yourself! Look at yourself in the mirror-you don’t want anyone seeing this! She then proceeded to take off all her clothes and reveal a curvaceous body with a perfect porcelain face framed by hair blacker than night. Then Royce also didn’t expect his own reaction to Jenny – he wanted her for himself because it had been so long since any woman made him feel cherished like she did. Apparently he succeeded in making Jenny feel loved because after their encounter she confesses about her kingdom of dreams where there is peace and prosperity where everyone looks up to her as a hero rather than being ignored for what happened when William came back from England… But before Royce can tell Jenny about this plan both are spirited away separately by William who has just returned home after years abroad studying law at Oxford university on behalf of King Edward III
What follows is a nightmare for both Royce and Jenny, who are finally brought together in marriage. However, each partner still feels hurt and humiliated because of the pre-existing prejudices against their own ethnic identities. Worse yet is that Jennifer has gone from one home where she was considered an outcast to another where she’s also ostracized.
Royce and Jenny start out their lives together again after the separation that robbed Royce of his true love. Jenny doesn’t take long to earn her people’s respect, which helps them see Royce as he is, not just a fearsome warrior. Tragically, though she tries hard not to be torn between her husband and family–her heart breaks in two. Where do her loyalties lie? With the man who has claimed it or with those who have cared for all these years?
Royce sets out on a quest to find his girlfriend, Jenny. When he finds her, they have an emotional conversation where Royce promises not only to help her get back with Stefan but also give up everything for their love. His plan is quickly spoiled by Stefan himself who had overheard the promise and broke the news of it later on when he came across Jenny again. I’ll never forget that scene in which she reacts-tears streaming down her face as she realizes what this means for Royce’s future happiness-and I’m sure you won’t either!
The book I’m referring to is my “All-Time Favorite,” which I keep and read over and over. Especially, I love Royce; he was battle-hardened but still had a heart of gold. It made me like him more when he saw past the false bravado and gave Jennifer what she needed most in life (respite). Who wouldn’t want to meet a man like that? If only time travel worked! The heroine, Jennifer also has qualities that make her worth admiring. For instance, she can recall times in her life when she felt as insecure Teenagers do too often – trying to fit into society or not be left out etcetera! Then there are moments where you think: What if…? And then regret it later because someone else got attention for doing this or something else instead of you… Anyway it’s clear from the story’s message to us all – we should aspire to have our own Kingdom Of Dreams whatever they might be..
The story in this book will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it’ll leave you with the feeling that life can be tough at times but there is always hope. It’s a great read!