My Lord's DesireNote: The woman in this book is feisty, but doesn't weild a sword. There is, though, a well described sword combat scene at the end between two men.
This book was primed to be a perfect one for me. It's set in 1204, a period I adore. It features a strong, independent woman who wants to stay that way, and a knight who feels strongly about honor and duty. Both are uninterested in politics and gossip.
The plot is that Adelaide, a ward of King John's court, is seeking to keep herself and her sisters unmarried because they don't want to be "ruled" by a man. Armand has just gotten out of captivity and is still trying to free his brother. He desperately needs money, and marriage is one of the few remaining ways to get it.
This is all fairly good - but then suddenly a series of completely outrageous things happen. Armand says "Oh well, I guess I'll go along with these ridiculous, quick choices." Adelaide says "Oh, you're doing this to me? OK, sure." And then in the next scene she's raging about how she'll never do what anyone else tells her to do because being independent is the only thing in life.
You get a shallow blurb about her being the eldest of three sisters and therefore she is the Ultimate Independent Woman. Also, their father was a drunk. Still, it doesn't flesh out the character and make her live and breathe. The way she acts is completely unrealistic for a woman in her time period. I'm not saying we want to read about women who were doormats. Medieval women weren't doormats either. But it reads as if a woman from today teleported back into medieval wear - and even more than that, that this woman rates incredibly high on the keep-men-away-from-me scale.
But this being a romance novel, you know that she's going to change her mind by the end - and that mind changing is also fairly unrealistic.
In general you get the sense that things happen for plot reasons, not for character reasons.
There are a few side characters who generally fall into the shiny-good or nasty-evil categories. I like to see more depth in the world I'm reading about.
A quick read, and the book sets the scene to have the second and third sister go through the same conversion process, so I'd be curious to see if the writer improved as she created those subsequent books. I would count this a good first start - I did read through the book after all - and would be willing to give the next book in the series a try.
One final comment - there are only a few romantic / sex scenes in the book and they are fairly mild. So for some people that might be perfect, and for others it might be disappointing. I think romance novels should have some sort of a "steaminess rating" so that readers of all types can know in advance what they're getting.
Books with Medieval Swordswomen
Medieval Romance Basics
Medieval Romance for Villagers
Medieval Romance for Nobles
Medieval Romance for Men
Medieval Romance for Women
Life in Medieval Days
Lisa's Medieval Romances
Seeking the Truth
A Sense of Duty
Online Literary Magazines
Lisa Shea's Homepage