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The particularly devoted and observant reader of this modest blog, should there be any such creature, may be shocked to see that this next book is:

  • Not in alphabetical order
  • Not free
  • Not an ebook.

Sadly, I have not come into great wealth and starting buying books at will. Instead, and happily, I have recently moved into an apartment building with a large take one/leave  library in the laundry room. This is my source of bathtub reading, since I dare not risk electronics or friend’s books in the tub. It was there that I found Lion’s Lady, by Suzanne Barclay. This is a Harlequin Historical, first published in 1998 and now available as an ebook.

I must admit, the cover caught my eye. In fact, I’m going to scan it so I can share it with you. Lion's Lady coverTo me, this looks like a powerful, confident woman. Not only is she not draped over a hunk, there isn’t even one in the picture. The story almost lives up the to cover.

It’s the late 1300s in Scotland, and fifteen year old Rowena MacBean discovers she is pregnant by her lover, the son of a wealthier family. Abandoned, she makes the only practical choice and quickly marries a minor clan chief who wants an heir and has failed to obtain one in the more conventional manner despite many attempts.

Six years later, her husband is killed in a dispute between clans, and she is soon caught up in plots between clans as well as threats against her and her son from members of her clan by marriage. Literally riding to her rescue is her long absent lover. Naturally, she despises him, but wisely accepts his protection and guidance, and reluctantly accepts his affections and explanations. That alone is not enough to bring them back together, as she is bound by oaths that would prevent settling down with him, and their immediate concern is defeating their known and unknown enemies.

Lion Sutherland is a hero in battle and in bed, well educated, and nice to ladies, children and kittens. Yet somehow he does not seem too good to be true. His family and his companions all exhibit a similar refinement which provides an appropriate context for his achievements and stature. As for Rowena, although she profits by her association with him, she also assists him and plays a key role in resolving the clan warfare. Barclay does an excellent job of integrating the romance and action plot lines. There are just two sex scenes in 300 pages. This is enough to establish that our couple have a strong physical relationship without dwelling on it excessively, and the scenes are almost as much about what they think and say, as what they do.

Strong plotting, strong characters…what’s not to like? Two quibbles: First, I accept that we need some flavour of time and place in dialogue. And I know that mayhap is a very old word. But perhaps is older still, and does not grate so. More seriously, our heroine survives a six year marriage of convenience without once having sex with her nominal husband. Apparently he prefers his mistress, and she’s fine being chaste. I didn’t buy it on either side, but it sure made our hero feel less jealous and more manly. Speaking of our hero, he’s apparently spent much of the last six years bedding many women to hide his heartache, which doesn’t seem to bother Rowena at all. Is it fair for me to request more equality in a historical romance? Mayhap not.

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