Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Karen Hawkins 'How To Abduct A Highland Lord'

Fiona MacLean's family feud with the Kincaid's has just been reopened after years of peace between them. When she comes across Black Jack Kincaid face down in the mud she has her man drag him unconscious to the alter so they can marry and prevent more violence from breaking out. The priest baulks at marrying an unconscious man until Fiona tells him she's in the family way. And so their marriage is off to a terrific start.

These two have a bit of history of course, and the first few scenes between them in the carriage to London are witty and entertaining. The two characters very soon fall into a loving stupor that seems to dull their wits entirely. They go shopping together, with no irony, and take a bath afterwards and talk about how there's nothing left in the city to buy. Did she finally hook up with her ne're-do-well lover or his gay brother. (Not that in reality I wouldn't rather marry a gay man over most romance heros, but these are fantasies after all.) I really almost entirely lost interest in these two. Did the author think that the plot was going to keep me going all the way to the end?

This book is well written, the sex is fine, secondary characters are almost engaging, and the characters are occasionally funny but not often enough.

Historical Romance 2007: 2 of 5 plaids.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bonnie Vanak 'The Sword and The Sheath'

Oh How do I hate thee, let me count the ways! Let's not even mention the title, why discuss the obvious. I think the reason I really hated this book was because I so wanted to like it. I really did. I ignored the title, I ignored my misgivings about the whole desert sheik thing. Has anyone read The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley? I loved that book so much, and I've been waiting my whole life for a romance even remotely similar.

Fatima is a twin born to a Bedouin tribe in Egypt. Her twin brother is a by birth a Guardian of the Ages, born to protect the sheik of their tribe and his heirs. But Fatima is the better fighter of the two (so we are told), and has visions that seem to help her predict danger to the sheik's son, Tarik. As a woman, Fatima can never be a warrior of the wind, much less a Guardian of the Ages. But when she switches places with her twin and ends up in battle, and saves Tarik's life, things get re-evaluated.

Fatima manages to break thousands of years of tradition and become a warrior, even though she doesn't seem to do too well at her warrior tests. OK. Then she swears a warrior's oath and a maiden's oath, you can imagine what that is, and when she breaks it with Tarik, she can't really understand why she has to marry him. Hmm. Tarik never truly accepts that she might be a decent warrior, despite her saving his life left and right, and when he makes little effort to hide the fact that they are sleeping together, he says, 'Well, yes, I did intend to stop you from being a warrior by taking your maidenhood, but not quite yet. Sorry. Can't you just be happy being married to me?' Excuse me? And after about a week, she's cool with that. WTF?

In general I try not to get too worked up about the inherent 'marriage and babies are what's truly good for a girl' theme of most (all) romances, BUT when the story uses the conflict between being a wife and mother and being something incompatible as THE CONFLICT of the novel, I tend to pay attention. Some still manage to squeak by my feminist radar, but this one? Not so much. And really that's just the beginning of the storyline problems here. The writing itself wasn't terrible, but the storyline, the characterization, the inconsistencies, oy vay!

Historical Desert Romance 2007: 1 out of 5 blood oaths.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Mary Balogh 'Slightly Dangerous'

Wow, I liked this book much more than the other book I read by Mary Balogh. It's always slightly dangerous for me to get distracted from my regular life by starting to organize my romance novels (or any bookshelves for that matter). Invariably I end up on the floor with an old book that I can't recall if I ever really read. I'm pretty sure I have read this in the distant past but it was so enjoyable I read it again.

Our effervescent heroine is Christine, widowed, penniless, but happily living with her mother and sister in a small picturesque English village. Her friend, the local landed gentry is giving a house party and convinces her to attend. There she meets the icy imposing Wulfric, Duke of Bewcastle. Wulfric spends most of his time looking down at her through his quizzing glass. Christine spends most of her time laughing and playing with the children in an entirely unsuitable way.

Does this sound ridiculously inane. Yes, but Ms. Balogh pulls it off. Her writing is terrific, and her dialog is (mostly) witty and entertaining. The book isn't short, so she takes her time getting these two together. The only important scene in the book that I thought was entirely unbelievable was when Wulfric dives from a tree branch into his estate's lake in front of his entire family. He supposedly does this to prove that he isn't too toplofty to still have fun. This guy proves he's fun simply by smiling in public, and that was enough for me. The phrase quintessential romance definitely springs to mind.

Historical Romance 2005: 5 of 5 icy stares.